November is here. Winter is sneaking up on us, and with winter comes winter heating bills for most of the United States. I live in northern Iowa, where temperatures can get quite cold in the heart of the winter months and, since I work from home, I have to utilize lots of different tricks to ensure that we’re not burning too much energy just to keep the house warm.
Last winter, I catalogued several of the best tactics to share with you at the dawn of the next winter. Here they are.
Check your insulation.
Take a quick peek in your attic. What do you see? Do you see any bare spots not covered in insulation? Attempt to identify what type of insulation you have and make sure it’s up to the level of insulation you need for your area using this helpful insulation guide along with this tool for understanding insulation R-values. Proper insulation is key to keeping your house warm.
Make sure your home is air sealed.
Air leaks and drafts allow warm air to quickly escape your house, resulting in tremendous heating and cooling bills. The solution to this problem is to check your home for air leaks and properly air seal any leaks you discover. This useful guide from the Department of Energy will walk you through the entire process.
Close the vents in unused rooms (and seal them off, if possible).
If your home is well insulated and you have a room or two that’s not actively being used, turn off the air vent in that room and seal the room as best you can. The temperature in that room will drop significantly when you do this as you’ll no longer be heating it – and no longer paying the bill for heating it, either.
Invest in thick socks.
I work from home in Iowa, and I’ve learned that there’s no better way to stay warm in the winter at home than to wear thick socks. Thick socks keep my feet warm even if I keep the temperature in the house low, and feet are one of the primary thermal indicators for the body as well as being a relatively poorly circulated extremity. Keep the feet warm and the rest of you will be fine.
Test the lower levels of your thermostat.
Along with wearing warm socks, I often tend to turn the heating down during the day (raising it when my family is at home, which is basically just a manual version of the effect one would get from installing a programmable thermostat). I work on the upper level of my home where it’s warmest, so reducing the house temperature during the day rarely has any negative impact on my work – but it certainly saves on energy costs.
Use a hot water bottle. We also tend to dip our thermostat down a bit at night when we’re snuggled in our beds. Unfortunately, after a long winter day, a bed might not necessarily be cosy right at first. Thus, I often use a trick that my father used when he was a boy – a hot water bottle. We use a reusable microwaveable hot water bottle filled with a gel-like substance. A quick heating in the microwave just before bed means that the bed quickly gets cosy warm – a perfect resistance against the cold nights.
Open the blinds on the sunny side of the house – close them on the other side.
In the winter, I do this on the top two floors of our home (where most of the windows are). In the morning, I open all of the blinds and curtains on the east-facing side of the house and make sure everything is closed on the west side (usually done the night before). Then, when I eat lunch, I switch the two. Then, just before dinner, I close everything on the west side of the house. This goes a long way towards maximizing the benefits of direct sunlight and minimizing the heat lost to windows not facing the sun.
Stick together – share a blanket.
If you walked into our family room, you’d see that we already have several blankets out for the winter months. We love to cuddle up as a family under a blanket or two on the couch, sharing our natural body warmth with each other. It keeps us all close together and toasty warm.
Use the oven.
Who wants to go out to eat in the deepest part of winter anyway? Stay home and cook something in the oven. Not only will the food preparation save you money, you’ll also find that the oven is far more energy efficient in the winter. How so? It works with the warming of your house rather than against the summer cooling of your house.
Drink warm fluids.
For me, winter is filled with cup after cup of hot tea and hot chocolate. Drinking a warm fluid makes me feel much warmer (and likely does slightly raise my body temperature). For me, the effect lasts for about forty minutes, a time in which I can get away with a temperature a few degrees lower. During the day, I’ll often prepare myself a giant mug of hot tea and slowly sip it over the course of a few hours. The small energy expense of heating up the water is more than replaced by the energy savings of being able to lower the house temperature a bit more.