Stay warm, save energy and money
For every two degrees that you lower your thermostat during the winter, you save approximately 10 percent on your heating bill. Wear heavier clothing indoors during cold winter days and nights. Layering clothes helps trap heat near your body so the rest of the house doesn't need to be as warm.
Also, add an extra blanket to your bed, so the rest of the house doesn't need to be kept as warm during the night. And keep moving: Exercise and activity generate body heat.
Here are more tips:
• Set and keep the thermostat on a gas or electric heater at 68 degrees when the home is occupied, and 55 degrees at night or when it's unoccupied.
• A clock-thermostat can be pre-programmed to the above settings so you don't have to remember to change it. You can even set it to pre-heat your home before you get up in the morning or before you get home in the evening.
• If you have a heat pump, set the lower temperature at 63 degrees, since heat pumps are designed to maintain temperatures within a narrower range.
• Don't close doors or shut off registers in rooms, as this puts added strain on the central system.
• If you notice little or no air coming from some registers - or that some rooms are colder than others - this could indicate a problem with the ducts.
• If you suspect duct leaks, have a licensed HVAC contractor check your entire system.
• Open drapes and/or shades on sunny days to let in the sun's heat. Close them at night and on a cloudy day.
• Close the damper and cover the fireplace when not in use. Be sure that any fire has been completely extinguished.
• Get the heating system professionally checked once a year and change the filters regularly to keep the unit running efficiently.
• Using portable heaters can be costly. Use them only to warm rooms that don't get enough heat or in homes without central heating systems.
• Turn off portable heaters when the room is unoccupied.
• If possible, purchase the type of heaters that sound an alarm or turn off automatically if they are tipped over.
• Never use propane heaters, hibachis, barbecues, or any heater with an open flame indoors. These heaters produce carbon monoxide, which is a clear, odorless gas that can suffocate humans and animals.
• Newer water heaters may have insulation built into the unit - check the owner's manual to determine if additional insulation can be added.
• Wrap the water heater with a water heater blanket to keep heated water warm.
• Lower the temperature on the water heater to about 120 degrees F. This is sufficient for most household tasks and it will allow the water heater to save energy.
• You should install low-flow showerheads, and fix any leaky faucets.
• A small drip can be the equivalent of wasting a bathtub full of hot water each month.
Weather-stripping and caulking can help keep your home comfortable:
• If your house is more than 15 years old, check the insulation in the attic and floor. Even if the insulation met requirements when it was installed 15 years ago, it has most likely settled significantly over time.
• Current standards call for at least R-30 in the attic, R-11 in the walls, and R-19 in the floor.
• Because up to 20 percent of the heat or cooling inside a typical house is lost through the windows, check the weather-stripping and caulking around doors and windows.
• Curtains or blinds should be opened during the day to let sunlight in, which will also help heat the home. Curtains should be closed at night to act as additional insulation for windows.
• When not in use, turn off lights and appliances.
• Some newer TVs, VCRs and other electronic appliances have a "sleep" or "stand-by" mode that allows them to start immediately when you turn them on. However, that means they are constantly drawing a small amount of energy. When possible, you should switch this option off.
• Use appliances such as dishwashers, washing machines, and clothes dryers only when they are full.
• Refrigerators usually consume the second most amount of energy in a home (No. 1: the heating/air conditioning system.) Help the refrigerator maintain its efficiency by cleaning the coils at the back or bottom of the unit.
• Don't let children stand in front of an open refrigerator while they are deciding what they want to eat. Every time you open a refrigerator door, the compressor has to run for 8-10 minutes to keep the inside cold.
• When you are ready to replace an appliance, purchase an ENERGY STAR model. ENERGY STAR appliances are between 15 percent and 40 percent more efficient than older models, and will save you energy for years to come.
• Replace incandescent lights with compact fluorescent bulbs (CFLs). Newer CFLs consume about 25 percent of the energy incandescent lights use and last ten times longer, yet produce the same amount of light. If you replace just five 100-watt incandescent bulbs with five comparable 23-watt CFLs, you will save about $100 over three years.
• Try hanging clothes outside to dry (they will smell better too).
When not in use, turn off home office equipment, including computers, monitors, printers and faxes.
• Some newer computers and other electronic equipment have a "sleep" or "stand-by" mode that allows them to start immediately when you turn them on. However, that means they are constantly drawing a small amount of energy. When possible, you should switch this option off.
• When you are ready to replace a piece of electronic equipment, purchase an ENERGY STAR model. ENERGY STAR equipment is between 15 percent and 40 percent more efficient than older models, and will save you energy for years to come. For more information on ENERGY STAR ratings go to www.energystar.gov