Warm the house and freeze the pocketbook

Man checking thermostat

When the mercury dips, home heating bills rise. Warming your home represents the biggest slice of the winter expense pie — 35-50 percent annually, especially in chillier states. Homeowners and renters alike can benefit from a few maintenance tips to help melt utility bills and keep your home repair budget in check.

Heat things down

  • Put the heat to bed with the rest of the family. Even minor adjustments are big winners — save two percent on the heating bill for each degree lowered for a minimum of eight hours a day. On the same thread, turn the heat down to the lowest possible degree (especially if freezing pipes aren’t an issue) when leaving on vacation.
  • Consider switching to a programmable thermostat. They allow you to set the temperature based on factors like time of day. Smart thermostats can be money savers, too. They learn from your behaviors, allow you to control the climate in your home remotely, show you energy consumption in real-time and can even adjust themselves based on conditions like humidity.
  • Regularly check and/or replace heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) filters. A dirty air filter makes a heating system work harder, which uses more energy.
  • Consider upgrading your furnace if it’s more than 10 years old. It may be wasting energy. Newer, high-efficiency furnaces typically run at about 95 percent efficiency.
  • Reverse the direction on your ceiling fans so they turn clockwise. This will push the warm air down and help it recirculate throughout the house.

Seal doors and windows

Stop throwing money out the window. Roughly 30 percent of your home’s heat and cooling is lost through windows and doors.

  • Check window seals for air leaks or moisture between the panes, which may indicate a broken seal. If you find an air leak, caulk the seal. An easy tip for spotting leaks is to light a stick of incense and hold it up to the inside of doors and windows on a breezy day. If the smoke drifts horizontally, there is a leak.
  • Inspect weather stripping around windows and doors, and immediately replace anything rotten or damaged.
  • Add storm windows for an added layer of insulation from the elements.
  • Lock windows and doors to get a tight seal; this keeps warm air in and cold air out.

Stoke the fire

Lighting a fire not only looks and feels good, but many are going this route because wood is sometimes cheaper than gas or electricity. On the downside, about 25,000 homes suffer a fire each year that start in the fireplace or chimney. So sit by the fire with care.

  • Hire a professional to clean and inspect the chimney and flue.
  • Cap or screen the chimney top to keep away birds, rodents and the elements.
  • Inspect the damper for proper opening and closing, and always keep it closed when the fireplace isn’t in use.

Prevent frozen pipes

New homes with pipes placed near exterior walls can be as prone to freezing as pipes in poorly insulated older homes. Bursts from frozen pipes can be difficult and expensive to fix.

  • Insulate pipes or wrap them with heat tape to prevent bursting under extremely cold temperatures. You can also insulate the walls or ceilings that contain the pipes.
  • Drain air conditioner pipes to prevent them from freezing and turn off the air conditioner water valve, if you have one.
  • Shut off all exterior water faucets — including irrigation systems — and disconnect and store garden hoses and sprinklers.
  • On extremely cold days, turn faucets on and let water trickle continuously. If there is a cabinet under the sink, open the doors to let warm air heat the pipes.

Build up your emergency fund now so you’re prepared for a winter surprise. For bigger winter home repair costs, learn more about our Home Equity Line of Credit (HELOC) or apply for one in Member Connect.

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