The easiest way to be “green” and save money is to cut down on utility bills. By using less electricity and water, you are saving both money and the planet. Now that winter is here and the cold weather is rolling in, it’s time to think about some ways to cut your heating costs in Baltimore. Here are just a few easy tips to get you started.
This is by far the easiest, and one of the most efficient, ways to cut heating costs and be “green” with your energy use. Most thermostats on newer homes are already programmable. If you have an older thermostat, you can buy a programmable one for about $25. To use it properly and save money, program the thermostat to only keep the house comfortably warm when people are home and awake. You’d be surprised how comfortable you can be while you are sleeping if you set that thermostat a few degrees cooler and add an extra blanket to your bed. If there are long periods of time when no one is at home, for instance at school or work, set the thermostat to cooler so your furnace is mostly off during that time. The U.S. Department of Energy says you can “knock 10 percent off your yearly heating and cooling expenses by turning the thermostat back 10 to 15 degrees for eight hours a day.” That can mean significant savings. These programmable thermostats are a great investment because most people will not remember to manually change the temperature several times a day.
Close Vents and Reseal Windows and Doors
Master Seal Doors & Windows
Another very easy way to cut heating costs is to close vents in unused areas of the house. If you have a spare bedroom that is unused, close all of the vents in that room. Most bathrooms are small enough that you do not need to have all or any of the vents open to keep the room warm enough. Many homes have vents in closets, but people leave the closet doors closed most of the time. There is no sense in heating a closed closet. Either leave the door open or close the vent. Also consider closing a few vents or setting the thermostat a little cooler on the upper floors if you have a multi-level home. Heat rises and you may not feel much difference if the upper level is a few degrees cooler than the lower level. Next on the list, check how well your doors and windows are sealed. Check the weather stripping to see if it is worn out. Check the caulking around the doors and windows to see if it is old and cracked. If you see too much light coming in around doors and windows, or feel a significant draft, replace the weather stripping and re-caulk the areas. These items are fairly cheap at your local hardware store and can save you a lot of money on your heating bill.
Cover Windows and Patio Doors with Plastic Film
Glass windows and doors tend to let heat leak out. Even the most expensive, energy-efficient windows are not perfect. At your local hardware store, for about $6, you can get a large roll of transparent film that works exactly like shrink wrap. There is usually very little need to open windows in the winter and most people can do without that patio entrance for a few months since cookout season is over. Figure out which windows and glass doors you can leave shut during the winter and cover them with this plastic. Then take a hair dryer or heat gun and gently blow hot air over the plastic to seal it up. When done correctly, you can barely notice the plastic and this could potentially save you 10 to 15 percent on your heating bill.
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Tom Clocker is a freelance writer covering all things Baltimore. His work can be found on Examiner.com.