Home improvements can help you control heating costs which seem to go up every year. You can't control the price of heating fuel (oil, gas or electric) but you can control how much energy you use to heat and cool your home. And here's a story about why you want to control your home's energy consumption.
Life happens and we all get older and there's nothing we can do about it!
From personal experience, it seems we need to keep our homes warmer as we get older. That's what happened to me about two years ago, and honestly it was the first time I understood why many people living in the northeast part of the U.S. become snow birds (migrating to Florida for the winter).
For years, I was able to gradually lower the temperature in my home so that we kept it at 68°F during the day. About two years ago, my body stopped cooperating – I learned that my home needed to be 72°F for me to be comfortable, and given that I work from my home office, it means higher heating bills.
Home Improvements: Why Invest to Lower Heating & Cooling Costs
Fortunately I follow much of my own advice (outlet insulation photo below was taken in my dining room), so I've been busy making small home improvements to keep my heating and cooling costs down. Living in California, and now New Hampshire for fourteen years, I've also benefited from gas heat but yikes, this particular graph delivers a scary message for those of us living in New England!
For those of you responsible for older family members, the real message that AARP is making in their report, Winter Heating Costs Report dated October 2012, is seniors living on fixed incomes are more sensitive to heating costs. “Thirty percent of older households have total family incomes of less than $20,000 and they typically experience the greatest energy burden. The burden is highest for those using fuel oil for heating.”
Home Improvements You Need to Plan For
You've read (I hope) many of my articles on this website, from Home Heating Concepts to home improvements like an Energy Efficient Hot Water Heater and programmable thermostats, also known as Smart Thermostats Making Home Heating Sexy.
Home Improvements You Can Do Yourself
Many of these projects take time with little to no cost, or a bit more but if you can recover your costs in 1 to 2 years, it makes a lot of sense.
- Turn your thermostat down 10 degrees while you're at work, and again when you're sleeping. If you keep forgetting, get a new programmable thermostat.
- Turn fans off as soon as they've done their job, or you're wasting the energy used to heat/cool the air you just exchanged with the outdoors.
- Check your fireplace damper to make sure it's closed. When you do have fires, close doors to rooms not being used to reduce the amount of warm air that will fly up through the chimney.
- Lower the temperature your hot water heater is set to, between 115 and 120 degrees, and you won't even notice the difference.
- Keep heating vents clear, ones that might be blocked by rugs and furniture that prevent warm air from circulating efficiently.
- Use curtains to slow the escape of heated air at night but don't forget to open the curtains to get the warmth of sunlight, especially on south facing windows.
- Add or replace worn weatherstripping on doors and windows, to reduce the loss of heated air.
- If you find drafts around your windows, you may need to caulk or add insulation to the gaps between the windows and the rough openings. Door sweeps can be used to close the gaps between exterior doors and the floor and foam insulation can stop air flow through outlets and switches on exterior walls.
- Wrap your hot water heater and pipes with insulation, especially if the system is in an unheated garage or basement.
- While challenging to get all the glue off, put plastic film on old and leaky (air) windows to reduce the air flow if you can't afford to upgrade to new double pane windows.
- Change the furnace filter according to the manufacturer's directions to run at optimal efficiency.
What home improvements plans do you have?