Angie's List: How can I keep warm without using my heater?
As the temperature drops (and keeps dropping!) in the weeks to come, it might feel like time to turn on your heating system and switch the thermostat to warm things up. But heating your home can be an energy-guzzler. Here are a few steps to help endure the cold that don’t involve just putting on a sweater or bumping the temperature up a few degrees. Save energy and increase comfort with these tips.
Set your ceiling fan to run in reverse. There should be a switch on the body of the fan that you can flip. Warm air tends to rise, but reversing your fan will push heat down into the room rather than letting it collect by the ceiling. (Make sure you clean your fan first, or else you may send a swirl of dust into your room!)
Add extra protection around areas of heat loss. Place thicker treatments over your windows and use heavy drapes to keep the cold out more effectively than curtains. It’s also a good idea to open curtains on south-facing windows during the day to allow sunlight to naturally heat your home. Use fabric snakes to block drafts underneath doors. In a pinch, you can cut a pool noodle in half lengthwise and slide it beneath your door. Wrap it in fabric to add some style! Also, if you have tile or hardwood floors, lay down rugs or floor coverings to insulate against the chill. Move large furniture away from exterior walls and make sure vents are clear to allow air to circulate.
Perform routine maintenance on your home. Change your air filter regularly; this step alone can lower your energy usage by 10 percent. And check the weather stripping and seals around your doors and windows. Even a small gap in the seals can make a big difference in your comfort.
Think of how alternate methods of heating around the house can help. Obviously, a fireplace is an excellent heating source, but when the fire’s not burning, make sure you keep the damper closed. Add caulking around the hearth and check the seal on the flue damper to make it as snug as possible. Another idea is to use your oven and stove for cooking; not only will they add heat to the rooms, hot meals will keep you cozy as well!
Check the insulation in your attic and walls, and hire a professional if necessary to improve the situation. An under-insulated attic will make a big difference in your heating bills. Also make sure that your basement is properly sealed and caulked. Unsealed basements allow cold air to infiltrate the home and push warm air out of the living space.
Consider using landscaping elements to improve your comfort. Windbreaks to the north, west and east sides of your home can block the cold winter wind. A wall or fence, evergreen trees and shrubs can make effective windbreaks, according to Energy Star.
Paul F. P. Pogue is a reporter for Angie’s List, a trusted provider of local consumer reviews and an online marketplace of services from top-rated providers. Visit AngiesList.com.