A Chicago area winter is a force to be reckoned with, and it won’t be long before cold weather drives us inside until spring. If you tend to shiver in your home all winter long in an effort to combat the rising cost of energy, take heart. There are a number of no-cost and low-cost ways to keep warm indoors while keeping energy bills in check, and it all starts with your fall heating system maintenance, which is designed to improve system efficiency and increase comfort.
A reputable contractor will perform a comprehensive tune-up of the heating system, which also will extend its operating life, help prevent breakdowns during the coldest months of the winter, and help ensure carbon monoxide safety. After your tune-up, which should be performed before you need to turn on the heat, get a jump on these tasks to improve your home’s overall efficiency and stay comfortable all winter long.
Continue to Maintain the Heating System
While your annual tune-up improves the performance of your furnace or heat pump, there are a few things you should do to maintain its efficiency and ensure all of the heat it produces gets to your rooms and stays there.
- Stock up on good-quality air filters and inspect the filter every month. When it’s dirty, swap it out for a new one. A clean filter ensures optimum air flow, improves indoor air quality, and protects your system’s interior components against dust buildup.
- Air seal your ductwork with metal tape or mastic sealant. Loose joints result in the loss of up to 40 percent of warm air.
- Insulate ducts in unconditioned areas like the attic to keep the air inside them warm as it moves through.
- Install a programmable thermostat to help you maintain efficient settings while you’re at work, asleep or home.
Seal Air Leaks
Cold air infiltrating your home due to leaky doors, windows and service entrances makes your heating system work extra hard to compensate, increasing your energy costs. Keep warm indoors by sealing air leaks in your home’s shell.
- Use caulk to seal around the stationary parts of windows and doors. Apply weatherstripping between parts that move, and outfit all exterior doors with a door sweep.
- Put plastic over particularly drafty windows, or consider replacing them with energy-efficient models.
- Seal gaps around vents and pipes that move through exterior walls with expandable caulk.
- Place foam insulating gaskets behind outlet covers and light-switch plates on exterior walls.
- Use caulk to seal drafty baseboards and recessed lighting fixtures.
Insulate the Attic
The attic is the coldest room in the house, and it affects the temperature of the rooms you live in. Ideally, the attic should have 15 inches of insulation with a rating of R-38.
Stay Warm at Lower Thermostat Settings
For every degree you set your thermostat back for eight to 10 hours, you’ll see a savings of up to 2 percent on your heating bills. Strive to keep the thermostat set no higher than 68 while you’re at home. You can keep warm indoors at lower thermostat settings with these little tricks.
- Reverse the direction of your ceiling fan blades to redistribute warm air that gathers near the ceiling. Flip the switch at the top of the fan to change the blade direction to clockwise during the winter.
- Open south- and west-facing window shades during the day to let the sun’s energy warm your rooms. Close all of your window shades at night to help prevent drafts and minimize heat loss.
- Take advantage of residual heat from cooking by opening the oven door once you’ve turned it off. On particularly cold days, put on a big pot of stew and let the stove help warm your kitchen.
- Invest in a good pair of thermal underwear to wear around the house. Keep your feet covered with warm socks, and consider a thin knit cap to help retain body heat.
- Keep throw blankets easily accessible around the house, and bundle up while you’re working on the computer or watching TV.
- Sip warm liquids to heat up your hands and make you feel warm.
- When you’re shivering, get up and move around. Do some jumping jacks or get on the treadmill to work up a sweat that will heat you up from head to toe.
For more expert advice on how you can keep warm indoors while the cold wind howls outside, please contact us in Northbrook, IL and surrounding areas at Roberts Heating & Air Conditioning.
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