Six Ways to Increase Energy Efficiency This Winter

With winter just around the corner, our thoughts turn to chilly temperatures, snow, and keeping the family warm and cozy all season long. To ensure high utility bills don’t interfere with your winter wonderland, be proactive and make a few small changes to decrease your home’s energy usage. Your wallet — and the environment — will thank you.

First Things First: Perform a Home Energy Audit

Your first step toward energy efficiency should be conducting a full home energy audit, which will help you understand your current energy usage and identify potential areas for improvement.

Many state energy offices and local utilities offer this service for free or at a discounted rate. You can always hire a certified Home Energy Rater through the ENERGY STAR® national locator or complete a basic do-it-yourself energy audit.

Don’t Let Heat Slip Through the Cracks: Weatherize Your Home

Identify sources of cold air drafts by slowly moving a smoke stick or incense around your windows and door. Once you have identified areas of energy leakage, your next step is to properly seal them through caulking and weatherstripping. This simple improvement can shave around 10 to 15 percent off your energy bills.

Caulking is generally used for sealing spaces around stationary areas such as walls and floors, whereas weatherstripping is used to seal movable areas such as operable windows and doors. The Home Depot’s got you covered on what you need to know to do both.

Upgrade to Energy Efficient Windows and Attachments

Did you know that up to 30% of a home’s heating energy can be lost through its windows? ENERGY STAR certified products make a big difference in keeping your home warm and energy efficient. For example, windows or patio doors with low-E (low emissivity) insulating glass have an invisible metallic film that works to keep the heat inside during the winter. Low-E glass is available in many JELD-WEN® windows, such as our Premium™ Vinyl windows. Select windows may also be ordered with double or triple panes and an argon glass fill for maximum efficiency.

Saying goodbye to inefficient single-pane windows and hello to double-pane, triple-pane or other ENERGY STAR certified windows is a crucial step toward energy efficiency. In fact, depending on where you live, making this switch can result in savings of $101 to $583 a year and reduce your carbon footprint by 1,006 to 6,205 pounds of CO2 (the equivalent of 51 to 317 gallons of gasoline), according to ENERGY STAR.

Smart use of window treatments can also help keep the heat in and cold out in your home. In the winter months, the sun shines brightest on the south-facing side of the home. Make sure you keep the blinds in this area open during the day to benefit from the sun’s natural heat and closed at night to avoid heat loss. Look to the US Department of Energy for recommendations on which window treatments will help improve energy efficiency in your home.

Consider an Insulating Front Door

Your exterior door plays a role in maintaining the optimal temperature in your home. A door with a solid insulating core will provide a strong barrier between the cold and your home. According to the US Department of Energy, insulated fiberglass and steel doors are good choices for achieving maximum energy efficiency with your front door.

Fiberglass and steel doors with insulating cores provide an extra layer of protection from extreme temperatures outside the home. A fiberglass door has the benefit of looking and feeling like a real wood door while offering significantly more thermal protection. Steel doors often utilize magnetized weatherstripping, which further increases their energy efficiency.

Get Smart with Your Heating

Properly maintaining your heating system will help keep your home nice and toasty for a low price. For example, clean air filters help prevent dust and dirt buildup, which can lead to blockages and system failure. Plus, a blocked air system means you are paying for heat without benefiting from its warmth. According to ENERGY STAR, your air filters should be inspected once a month and changed at least every three months for maximum efficiency.

Turning your thermostat down while you are sleeping or away from the house can also significantly decrease energy usage. There’s no reason to keep the heat fully on while you are away at work and the kids are at school. This is where “smart” programmable thermostats come in. A programmable thermostat can save your household throughout the year, allow you to control your heat remotely, and automatically turn your heat off according to your usage patterns. Be sure to check out CNET’s smart thermostat roundup before making the switch.
Photo: Chris Monroe/CNET

Make Sure Your Home is Properly Insulated

Proper insulation is critical for controlling the temperature and energy usage in your home. Around 25 percent of heat is lost through the roof and attic, making this area of the home a great place to target for better insulation. Whether you are enlisting professional help or going at it yourself, this guide will provide you with some useful insulation insights.

Your floors are another important area for insulation and account for about 10 percent of heat loss in the home. The right flooring can make all the difference in keeping your home warm during the winter. Carpet is a classic for insulating floors, but some surprising materials, like stone, also possess warming properties when paired with an insulating underlayment or radiant heat system. An easy option for increasing the warmth of your floors would be simply adding a stylish area rug to your space. Check out this article from The Spruce for some guidance on keeping your floors warm.