This post sharing tips to save energy this winter is sponsored by Sears Home Services.
Winter has officially arrived in Chicago, and I know we aren’t alone here. I held off turning on the furnace as long as possible, but when even my little guy on my indoor/outdoor thermometer has put on his coat and hat, there’s no pretending anymore. And ok, there hasn’t been for awhile.
That said, when my energy company sent me a “how are you doing” letter recently detailing my monthly energy usage in relation to neighbors and environmental friendliness, we did a pretty good job. Those are the things that make me happy. As much as I hate having to pay so much for gas and electricity, at least I know I’m helping to minimize my bills, but there’s always more I can do to save energy this winter.
There are tons of ways to be more efficient, and you don’t have to implement all of them to see a difference either. Some are truly no cost, while others require an upfront investment that pays off as you make changes to save energy this winter.
Tips to Save Energy This Winter
Open and close your window treatments.
Right now, it’s really sunny. When I touch my blinds, I can feel the warmth of the sunshine behind them. This is an easy one. When it’s sunny and warm, open your shades to let that warmth into your house. When the sun leaves that part of your house, close them again to hold the heat in. I have them open on the south and east of my house in the morning, then switch them over as the day goes on to open the ones on the west side of my house later in the day, closing the blinds that no longer get sun. When it’s rainy or cloudy? They stay closed on cold days and help me save energy this winter.
There are even motorized shades now for all sorts of window treatments from wood blinds to blackout shades and more. You don’t even have to get up to switch them around anymore. Touch a button to have them go up or down. Or? Set a timer for them to do so automatically once you figure out your schedule. We have blinds in our house that the previous owner’s cat chewed so the cords don’t work well, and these are so on my list of wanted upgrades!
Add energy efficient window treatments.
Some window treatments are pretty. Some are designed to help retain heat (or cold in the summer). You can even find window treatments that include form and function. I’m a big fan of blackout honeycomb window treatments in bedrooms just to keep light out. The benefit is that many of these also provide a layer of insulation. Investigate different options in whatever window treatments you choose.
Even curtains can be lined to provide more warmth in the winter. The Roman shades that came with our house have no lining, and I can actually see through them. Adding a panel behind can make a huge difference in warmth throughout the year. We aren’t quite ready to replace all our window treatments, but this is another factor to consider.
Concerned that the most energy efficient window treatments won’t have the look you want? You’d be surprised at how attractive many are. Curtains or panels edging your window treatments can really jazz it up, too.
Add film to your windows.
Obviously, you can’t insulate your windows the same way you can insulate your home. Well, you can’t if you want to see out the window anyway. The window films are great and don’t cost much. Adding that extra barrier between your house and the outdoors can make an impact. My husband and I make a day of it every year to seal the windows with the film, and my kids are old enough now that they have fun following with a hair dryer to complete the process.
Replace old, drafty windows.
Technology has changed not just in our phones, but in windows, too. The R factor (level of insulation) has grown dramatically. We replaced all the windows in our old home, and it was amazing the difference in our energy bills. We had 32 windows in that house, so it wasn’t cheap to do, but over the years, it pays for itself. Replacing windows also allows you to ensure they have sufficient insulation around them and are sealed properly to avoid leaks that your old windows may have.
If you have older windows, any window replacement can make a big difference. Depending on your budget, you can find good windows or fantastic windows, but any new window helps. And of course, you know Sears has all the option you might need to replace your windows, including free estimates. In fact, you can save $325 on window purchases of $1,500 or more now through 1/31/2017.
Seal around windows and doors.
Anywhere there’s a leak means you’re letting cool air in…and paying to heat that air from the outside. We light a small candle and carefully walk around the house with it a couple times a year. Anytime we place it near a door or window and the flame wavers, we know there’s an air leak. Out comes the caulk to seal it.
Windows are doors aren’t the only culprits. Anywhere there’s a change in surface, you have the potential for leaks. Check your recessed lighting. Look around your chimney. Investigate behind your cabinets (this is a big one for us in our house). Get creative. You can even hire an expert to come to your house to find and seal all those leaks to help you save energy this winter.
Adjust your thermostat.
Obviously, the less heat you use in your house, the less expensive it is. Even if you have a “old-fashioned” thermostat, you can manually adjust it. In the morning before you leave for work, tweak it down. Before you go to bed, tweak it down. You can turn it up again once you get home, but those degrees make a difference. And if you go on vacation? We have ours set to 58 whenever we are out of town.
You can also get used to cooler temperatures in your house. While it’s nice to have a toasty 72 or 73 degrees in your house, turn it down to 68 or 69 instead. I’d much rather wear wooly socks or wear a thicker sweater and save money. We’re fairly extreme in that it’s currently 62 degrees in my house, but I’m used to it, and I’m comfortable. When we have guests, we turn the heat up, but when it’s just us? We’re all good with it!
Upgrade your thermostat.
We purchased a wireless thermostat, and it’s great. It senses when we aren’t home, and it automatically turns down the thermostat when it knows we’re away. That saves a ton of money because I’ll be honest that before we had the new thermostat, I didn’t always (often!) remember to manually adjust the temperature the way I meant to.
This also lets us set programs to change the temperature by time of day and day of week. During the week, I enjoy cooler temps, while on the weekends when my family is home, they like it a couple degrees warmer. It also runs programs to figure out how to set the temperatures more intelligently to save energy this winter (and money). We’ve had this for just over two years, but it’s already paid for itself.
Don’t forget to change out your filter.
You HVAC system pulls through all the dust and dirt that accumulate in your house, and filters get dirty. Be honest. When was the last time you changed your filter? We change out our filter at least quarterly, but I set a reminder on my calendar to check the filter every month to ensure that it hasn’t gotten more dirty than usual.
Why change it? The dirt means your furnace and air conditioner have to work harder to push the air through, and that can also lead to a shortened life for your HVAC unit. Having to spend the money to replace your whole unit when a new filter regularly can extend its life? That’s just not smart.
Regularly service your furnace.
It isn’t enough to just change your filter. Just like getting your oil changed and other car maintenance, an expert needs to service your furnace annually to clean and inspect it. They can ensure it’s running optimally, which can reduce your heating and cooling bills. Right now, Sears has $40 off HVAC paid repair or maintenance work through January 29, 2017. Additionally, Sears offers a program for less than $13/month ($149.99 annual fee) where a technician will come out twice a year to check your HVAC system – once before it gets cold and once again before it’s hot. Even better? If you do need a repair, they diagnose the problem for free and give you a 15% discount on any repairs. Total score.
Sometimes though, you just need to replace the whole unit to save energy this winter. Wait, didn’t I just recommend changing the filters regularly to extend the life? Well, if your HVAC system is over 10 years old, it may be time to replace it. May be. Our unit is from 2005, but when we had the Sears tech out to service our a/c earlier this year, he confirmed that it’s still in good working order. If you think it might be time for you, Sears offers a free in-home consultation (and they may tell you that your unit is just fine!) and right now you can get $325 off new HVAC systems $1,500 or more through 1/31/17.