Your feelings about the approaching fall and winter may be mixed. We’re all ready to escape the summer heat of Columbia, Maryland, but diving right into the cold doesn’t sound too favorable either. Fortunately, winter is still a ways off, and fall is the time when you decide how comfortable you’ll be and how efficiently your home will run. Preparing for the winter ahead of time will also prevent problems from popping up in the middle of the cold season.
By taking proper care of your HVAC system, the air in your home, and yourself, you’ll be prepared for a comfortable and efficient winter. Here are six ways that you can prepare for an energy-efficient winter during the fall.
Preventive maintenance should be a top priority on any HVAC fall to-do list. A comprehensive checkup should especially be conducted in the spring and in the fall. Over the summer, it’s possible that your HVAC system has sustained some strain and even some potential damage. A checkup in the fall will make you aware of any possible damage and any potential issues that could grow more severe in the winter.
Professional HVAC contractors can conduct necessary repairs, clean parts within your system, replenish fuel and refrigerant levels, and much more. Many contractors offer maintenance agreements. Griffith Energy Services, for example, offers different levels of maintenance agreements, each one providing greater savings on labor, parts, and repair than the previous level. Maintenance ensures that your system will run with efficiency and reliability throughout the fall and into the winter. It also reduces the likelihood of your system failing when you need it most.
Seal Your Home
Your home makes up something called a thermal envelope. The thermal envelope refers to anything that separates the air inside your home from the air outside. This may include the walls, doors, windows, insulation, and more. When breaches form in your thermal envelope, air escapes, reducing your energy efficiency and keeping you from enjoying that warm air that you need after being out in the cold.
Sealing your home’s thermal envelope starts with identifying any potential leaks by looking for dust, dirt, and light coming through in areas it shouldn’t. If you have one, the attic is a good place to start. Gaps in the floorboards of your attic allow air from your home to be wasted in the attic. Start by rolling out some blanket insulation on the floor, which will block a large amount of the escaping air. Next, spray expanding foam in gaps around plumbing pipes and outlet boxes. If you have gaps around recessed lighting cans, look for tighter, insulated cans. Finally, put some weatherstripping around the entry hatch to finish sealing off your attic.
Once your attic is sealed, move on to smaller culprits, like the windows and doors. Place an extra layer of caulk around windows that may have a breach around them. If you’re concerned about a breach between your front door and doorframe, place some weatherstripping along the doorframe. Air may also be escaping through leaks in your duct network, but that’s not something you should fix yourself. If you’re concerned about air leaking from your ducts, call your local HVAC contractor.
Install a Humidifier
If the heat in your home is too dry, you may experience an increase in illness and a drop in energy efficiency, not to mention a buildup in static electricity, which can be dangerous. Since dry air feels cooler, we’re more prone to turn up the heat from the furnace when all we actually need is to increase the humidity in the home. A humidifier, which works in league with your HVAC system, will add moisture to the air leaving your furnace. You can set the humidity level that will give you the most comfort, health, and efficiency.
Don’t set humidity too high, however, because too much humidity can also reduce indoor air quality and can even damage the wood furnishings in your home.
Install a Programmable or Smart Thermostat
You may have already heard about all of the inherent benefits that come along with installing a programmable or smart thermostat (which is just a programmable thermostat with Wi-Fi connectivity), but it’s because they work. With a programmable thermostat, you can have closer control over your temperature, and greater control generally leads to greater efficiency. In fact, some programmable thermostats allow you to set different temperatures for different areas in your home, allowing you to keep the focus of the airflow out of rooms that aren’t often used.
With a programmable thermostat, you can set different temperatures for different parts of the day. During the fall and winter, for example, your efficiency will rise if you reduce the temperature in your home while you’re away. After all, the closer the temperature in your home is to the air outside, the less strain is placed on your furnace. You can program the thermostat to warm up your home before you arrive, ensuring comfort and efficiency all in one.
Smart thermostats, thanks to their Wi-Fi connectivity capabilities, can email you energy diagnostic reports as often as you’d like. These efficiency reports illustrate where you may be wasting energy, allowing you to respond accordingly.
Maintain Indoor Air Quality
Keeping a high-quality indoor environment, which comes along with its own list of benefits, also increases the efficiency and comfort of your home. A dirty home can inhibit airflow and lead to illness, which often prompts us to turn up or down the air when it may reduce efficiency.
Aside from keeping your home clean by reducing clutter, vacuuming, and dusting, remember to think of the less-cared-for areas of the home. For example, draperies and blinds gather dust, dirt, and debris that can become part of your airflow. Carpets and bedsheets can also attract air quality-reducing particles. Clean drapes, blinds, and sheets often. Vacuuming your floors is a good start, but it’s also helpful to clean your carpets once in a while. When cleaning, pay special attention to the areas around heat registers and the HVAC unit itself. Keep these areas especially clean.
Installing a humidifier and having your ducts cleaned, as mentioned above, will also increase indoor air quality and efficiency.
Think Energy Smart
The best way you can prepare for an energy-efficient winter is to develop an energy-efficient mindset. Since situations vary, think about areas in your life where you could be wasting energy and address them yourself. There are a few general energy-saving habits that are easy to develop. On cool days, open up drapes and blinds to let the natural sunlight warm the room. Turn down your water heater setting to 120 degrees. Dress warm and use your fireplace often.
If you enjoy taking part in the Christmas-decorating festivities and you know that you generally leave your lights on during the entire month of December and into January, consider buying LED holiday lights before the holidays, as they waste less energy. When the weather gets colder and you’re concerned about drafty windows, cover them with thick drapes, especially during the night, when cold air often seeps into the home. All of these habits can form a foundation for an energy-efficient mindset.
Just as your home was a sanctuary from the heat in the summer, you can ensure that it’s a comfortable and efficient sanctuary when the winter arrives. Investing in these six ways to an energy-efficient winter will be well worth your time and money, especially with the utility bill savings that you’ll enjoy. We here at Griffith Energy Services want to do everything we can to guarantee a comfortable and efficient winter for you and your family. To take your home’s efficiency to the next level with maintenance and energy-efficient installations, give us a call at 888-474-3391.
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