Instead of shivering this winter to achieve cold weather energy savings, employ some of these tips to help you cut energy usage without sacrificing your comfort. The two appliances that use the most energy during the winter months are the heating system and the water heater, and going through your home to reduce the heating load required by both will save your energy dollars.
The most effective way to learn where your home has energy losses is through an energy audit performed by a professional HVAC contractor or licensed energy auditor. They use a blower door along with infrared technology to measure and the amount of air leakage your home has and to pinpoint the locations.
In lieu of a professional audit to achieve cold weather energy savings, you can check your home on your own by doing the following:
- Look at the exterior window frames to find small cracks between the frame and the exterior. Use exterior caulk to seal any gaps you find.
- Inspect the exterior door frames and look for light coming inside or outside. If you detect light, replace the old weatherstripping with fresh.
- Check the attic for leaks where pipes, wires, vent stacks and flues leave the attic. If you have leaks around a chimney or the flue, use silicon caulk or metal gaskets to seal the leaks.
- Examine the foundation of your home and seal any cracks or holes with expanding foam or caulk. You can also use a lighted candle or incense stick to sense air movement at the sill plate to detect leaks.
Have your furnace or heating system serviced annually to achieve better energy efficiency. When HVAC professionals maintain equipment, they go through the entire system, cleaning and adjusting the parts. The goals of annual maintenance are to find any issues with the system that could cause part failure and to bring the equipment as close to factory settings as much as possible. The inspection should also include your ductwork, checking for any problems or leaks.
Keep an eye on the air filter for the air handler. When the furnace runs frequently, check the filter every month and replace it as needed. Running your heating system with a dirty filter drives up your energy bills and could cause premature failure because:
- Dirt slows the passage of air through the air handler. This causes your system to work longer to reach your thermostat’s settings.
- When the fan pulls air through a dirty filter, it also pulls dust through the filter that can cover the heat exchanger in a gas furnace. The dust insulates the heat exchanger and makes it harder for it to give up its heat. The extra burden on the metal can cause fatigue, eventually causing it to crack. The cracks can emit carbon monoxide, forcing the HVAC technician or gas company representative to red-tag your furnace and shut it down until it’s repaired or replaced.
Install a programmable thermostat, especially if you’re routinely away during the week. These devices save energy by remembering to turn the temperature down when you’re not occupying your home or are sleeping.
You can increase cold weather energy savings by tending to your water heater throughout the year by doing the following:
- Drain several quarts of water from the heater every few months. Over time, sediments collect at the bottom of the tank that slow the heating process and shorten the water heater’s life.
- Wrap the tank with an insulating blanket, available at home improvement centers. If yours is electric, it’s an easy do-it-yourself project. If you use gas, follow the instructions very carefully or ask a professional for assistance. It’s important not to cover any of the vents for a gas water heater for proper combustion and ventilation.
- Turn down the water heater’s temperature to 120 degrees. You’ll realize cold weather energy savings, reduce the amount of hard water sediments and lengthen the heater’s life.
- Wrap the pipes leading from the water heater with pipe insulation, especially if it’s in the basement, where it’s typically colder.
To achieve the most cold weather energy savings, contact the pros at Griffith Energy Services today, proudly serving Baltimore, Frederick, Hagertown, Manassas, Westminster, Easton, Dover DE and Martinsburg WV homeowners.
Written by Kevin Spain