Oh, the weather outside is frightful

By Stew

cold house

. . . or soon will be.

We used to live in one of the coldest areas of the country. Our heating bills for a 1,200 square foot house ranged from $225 and $275 a month during the winter. We now live in a state with a more mild winter and our heating bill never really goes over $100 in a month. Needless to say, in our former home, we did everything possible to hold costs down and even though our current heating expenses are not as great, we still take measures to reduce heat loss.

Here are a few of our tricks. Some are worth more than others and many of you will probably be able to add to the list. I will start things off:

  • Lock all windows. Leaving a window unlocked will allow more cold air to flow around it. Locking windows was a part of my routine in late fall and will even improve the performance of modern, gas-filled, double-paned windows.
  • Make sure that glass pane on storm doors is closed. During warm weather months, we sometimes get in the habit of leaving the solid panes open in order to take advantage of the breeze that flows through the screen. I often see homes where the owners have forgotten to close the pane when the heat is turned on.
  • Doors present one of the most difficult insulating problems for modern homes. Put a “draft snake” in front of doors leading to the outside – especially doors that are not used often. If the “snake” is in the way or kids constantly move it or play with it, close it in between the door and the screen door. It will serve the same purpose and be invisible to anyone in the interior of the home.
  • We used to turn the heat off when we left the house – with two caveat’s. There are instances when more heat is used in the warm-up after you return home than if you had let the furnace maintain the temperature in the home while you were gone. Secondly, make sure that you do not have any pipes that might be easily frozen. We never had frozen pipes in our old home, even though we regularly turned the heat down to 50 degrees F when it was -20 and -30 outside.
  • In our old house, the whole family slept upstairs, so there was no point in heating the first floor. This will not work for everyone, but we turned the house heat way down – usually under 60 degrees – and used space heaters upstairs to make up the difference. The sleeping area upstairs was quite cozy.There are some low cost heaters that are quite safe, but you need to experiment and make sure that the space heater is not using more energy than the furnace would use.
  • It is amazing the difference that a few more clothes can make – slippers, a sweatshirt, etc. My personal favorite is a long sleeve t-shirt.
  • Again, might not work for everyone, but the more people who sleep in the same room, the warmer they will stay. Not just because of the extra body heat, but because it reduces the number of rooms that have to be heated. In our old home, our family of five slept in two rooms. Mostly because that is all the rooms we had, but we only had to heat those two rooms .
  • Closing drapes and shades will help to insulate a house, keeping warmth inside and cold outside.
  • A lot of old homes have doors in places where they are no longer needed. In our old home, we had one such door and I placed a 3 inch sheet of styrofoam insulation between the two doors. We never used that entrance and the styrophoam made the space almost as airtight as the rest of the wall.
  • Insulate, insulate, insulate! Between floor joists, in walls, more fill in the attic, on top of the basement wall, around the dryer vent, there are all kinds of little nooks and crannies that could use a squirt of Great Stuff foam sealant or a few tufts of fiberglass insulation.

Do you have any more tips to add?

Article by Stew

Photo by ansik


6 Responses (including trackbacks) to “Oh, the weather outside is frightful”

  1. Andrew @ Earn Give Save Says:

    Great round up of cold weather heating tips! Our home is from the 1930s, so it definitely benefits from some TLC is the winter. We have noticed, however, that our gas costs are down per unit over last year. Are you seeing that where you are?

  2. MITBeta @ Don't Feed the Alligators Says:

    “There are instances when more heat is used in the warm-up after you return home than if you had let the furnace maintain the temperature in the home while you were gone.”

    Under what conditions would this occur?

  3. Ashley Says:

    @MITBeta If you turn off the heat in a large poorly insulated home for a few hours and the temperature drops to nearly the same temperature outside it would take a lot of heat to return it to the warmer temperature you started at. It the same reason we don’t turn off our vehicles every single time we come to a stop, you’d sometimes use more gas turning the vehicle back on than in idle.

  4. Mike Says:

    Living in a cold area too, I can suggest to drop your heater but not turning it off completely.

    If the temperature drops more than 3 degrees, you will lose electricity efficiency when the heater starts up again. It will have to burst for a long time to capture back a comfortable temperature.

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