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Winter

Baby, it’s cold outside. … Well, then, stay inside and keep warm.

Your heating system, whether gas or electric, is probably your home's largest energy user in the winter. It can be an energy waster if you don't use it wisely.

Home Improvements

  • Adjust your humidity. A well-humidified house at 68 degrees Fahrenheit is as comfortable as a dry house at 75 degrees. Aquariums and house plants can add humidity.
  • Insulate exterior walls. Proper insulation keeps your home warm in winter and cool in summer. In fact, you can lose as much as 20 percent of your heating energy through an un-insulated ceiling. Read some helpful tips on insulating your home.
  • If you have an older home or office, consider replacing older windows that allow air drafts. If that's too expensive, consider initially replacing the draftiest windows first.
  • Install glass storm doors.
  • Prevent heat loss. Cut heat loss by caulking and weather-stripping doors and windows.
  • Take down any awnings over your windows in order to let in winter sunshine.

Maintenance

  • Close any openings, such as fireplace dampers, when you're not using them.
  • Dirty filters make your furnace run much harder and circulate dirty air through your house. You should be able to see light clearly through the filter. If not, it needs to be changed. Clean your furnace filter monthly, and follow any other routine maintenance procedures described in the owner's manual.
  • Before the start of the heating season each year, have a professional check your furnace. A professional can keep your furnace operating efficiently as well as spot and correct any potential safety problems.
  • Keep radiator surfaces clean. Like anything else, a radiator works better when it's cleaner. Try to avoid painting your radiator, too. If your radiator is against an exterior wall, put aluminum foil behind the radiator to reflect heat back into the room.
  • Check the duct work. Most ducts are in unheated spaces and are a common source of heat loss. Get more information on insulation.

The Thermostat

  • You can save as much as 10 percent a year on your heating bill by simply turning your thermostat back 10 percent to 15 percent for eight hours. You can do this automatically without sacrificing comfort by installing an automatic setback thermostat (also known as a clock or programmable thermostat). You can set this type of thermostat to automatically turn down or up during certain times of the day.
  • A good rule of thumb is to set the temperature as low as you can and still be comfortable. Each degree you lower your heat in the 60-70 degree range will save 2 percent on your heating costs. The ideal temperature would be around 68 degrees.
  • Adjust your thermostat in the morning and evening. If you don't have a clock thermostat, at least turn down your thermostat regularly. Set it at about 68 degrees Fahrenheit during the day and three to five degrees lower at night or if you’re leaving your home for more than four hours.
  • Locate your thermostat on an inside wall where it won't be affected by the sun or a heat source
  • Check with your heating contractor or local hardware store for costs involved in the installation of programmable thermostats.
  • You can also save energy and money by installing a demand controller. (Available in South Dakota only.)

Living Habits

  • Dress warmly in your home. Wearing sweaters or other warm clothes at home can really help. Loose-fitting clothes are comfortable, and they help hold in your body heat naturally.
  • Close your drapes on cold days and at night, but open them during the day time. This will help the sun heat your home.
  • Use ventilating fans only as needed. Use kitchen, bath and other ventilating fans sparingly. In just one hour, these fans can blow away a house full of warmed air. Turn them off just as soon as they have done their job.
  • Move furniture away from the air registers, allowing for the free flow of heated air.

Fireplaces can be energy thieves

  • If you have a fireplace, make sure your damper closes tightly when you're not using it. Closing the damper could save 8 percent of your home's heat. An open or poorly fitted damper will allow the warm air from your home to escape out the chimney.
  • If it's not properly designed, a fireplace can pull cold air into the building along the floor and make the room cold. Many newer fireplaces are made with vents to provide fresh cool air and give off warmed air. Glass panels on the fireplace can be effective.
  • Put your wood-burning appliance safely away from walls, and make sure the chimney is installed according to safety guidelines. You should also make sure your chimney is clean and that a qualified contractor inspects it annually.