Get comfier this winter: Three steps to staying warm for less

There’s no burying your head in the sand (unless you really do head to the beach), no amount of pretending that can overcome the winter chill that settles over most of the country even before the last leaf falls. The months of cold weather may be outside your control, but your heating system is not. Taking a close look at three elements of that system can go a long way toward keeping your home warm without using lots of energy.

1. Make sure your home is sealed up tight.

Seal high-impact areas like the plumbing, wiring, light fixture, and ductwork penetrations from your attic. Gently push back the insulation on the attic floor to locate the tops of wall headers, and use caulk or spray foam to seal the cracks.

Give the attic access hatch inside your home a makeover. If you have a simple flat board blocking the access hole, attach three inches of foam board insulation to the backside of the hatch. Apply weatherstripping to the lip that holds the board in place. Apply latches from the home side that keep the board fitting snugly against the weatherstripping. Those areas can account for major heat loss—as much as leaving a window open all winter.

2. Install insulation if necessary. 

Not so fast! Before you even think about adding insulation to your home, have you air sealed? Putting in insulation when lots of air is moving through your house is pretty close to useless.

If you have made sure your home is sealed, then think about adding R42 ceiling insulation, which is available in fiberglass batts, blown-in fiberglass, or blown-in cellulose.

3. Consider upgrading your equipment.

If your home is sealed and insulated properly, your heating system is in the best possible position to do its job effectively. If that system is old or inefficient, consider the move to a new heat pump or geothermal system; you might qualify for a rebate. If you’re in the fortunate position of not needing a new system, you can still take a few steps to make sure that you’re using as little energy as possible:

  • Check your filters monthly, and change them as necessary.
  • Use space heaters, but not as your primary heat source. Turning off your central heating system and using space heaters does not save you money.
  • If you have an electric air-source heat pump, don’t “flip the switch” to set it on emergency heat. It knows when to switch automatically between the heat pump and the emergency heat.
  • Don’t be fooled by ads that claim the heaters in the hand-crafted wooden boxes are any more efficient than a standard discount-store space heater. They aren’t.

And if you have questions about these or any other energy-saving issues, don’t hesitate to ask. Your local Energy Advisor has answers.