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Winter Heat Conservation Strategies

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I always take a peek into Gerri Willis’ 5 Tips column because I’ll probably find a tip or two that will serve as a reminder for something I should be doing. With heating costs on the rise, it’s almost time to prep your home to minimize heat loss this winter. Her five tips are pretty predictable but you can still take away something useful. Here’s what I plan on doing (or already am doing) to conserve heat.



1. Using the programmable thermostat – I’m glad to see this as the first tip since everyone should get one because it should pay for itself within the first year. It’s useful in the winter and the summer so you don’t need to wait for a favorable season, every season is favorable with a programmable thermostat.

2. Sealing ducts – Of the five, this is the tip this week that I’m going to look into. The downside is that all my ducts are in the walls so I don’t know how well I’m going to be able to do this but at least it’s in my mind.

The rest of the tips aren’t applicable (my attic is insulated, I have electric heat, and I don’t qualify for low income home energy assistance) but here are some more ideas I’ve had.

3. Seal windows – This includes caulking them on the outside but also putting a plastic covering over the windows on the inside. It doesn’t look pretty but I have a lot of little used rooms in my house where it wouldn’t be a significant eye sore. Air leaks in and heat leaks out in those places (I need new windows really) so a plastic sheet will be useful.

4. Weather-strip doors – I have a set of French front doors and weather-stripping them (adding that plastic strip to edges of the doors) can prevent heat loss (or cold air coming in). A few bucks and a few minutes is a great tradeoff.

5. Use the fireplace – I’ve never had a fireplace before so it’ll be an interesting experiment. With wood being a cheap source of fuel, this might save a few dollars on the utility bill. I forgot to mention this earlier but my fireplace has a little fan/pump above the flames that push the hot air back into the room. This is important because otherwise the air would get sucked up the chimney and out of the house if the heat was otherwise turned on.

6. Insulate piping – A lot of my pipes are already covered but there still are a few that could use it.

7. Reduce water heater temperature to 110 degrees – I may not do this because I like hot showers but a tip I read everywhere is that reducing hot water heat to 110 degrees will save you money but you won’t really know the difference.

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6 Responses to “Winter Heat Conservation Strategies”

  1. Actually #5 is not very practical. Fireplaces in most older homes (my one was built in 1918) were not designed efficiently. If I use the fireplace, the flue will actually suck up all the warm inside air and send it up out the chimney. It’s a net heat loss. So if I use the fireplace, I have to turn off the steam heat and just use the fireplace. Not the thing for a chilly night. OK for a romantic evening or too, though.

  2. jim says:

    That’s a good point Karen, I forgot to mention that my fireplace has a little fan/pump at the top to blow the hot air back into the room and not up the flue.

  3. Caulking around your windows is definitely good advice. Not only does it help with insulation, but it keeps water out of your walls, and that’s always a good thing.

    Insulate your garage door if it’s connected to living space:

    http://www.fivecentnickel.com/2005/08/04/insulate-your-garage-door/

  4. Esther Burgess says:

    Does it truly save heating dollars to turn down the thermostat at night? Doesn’t it take a long time to heat up the house in the morning and in the end take more fuel than just leaving the temperature set at a comfortable setting?

    • Carolyn Comes says:

      Esther- I wondered the same thing, however I began a science experiment to see if this was true. As far as I can tell, it does save money to drop the temperature at night. I have yet to find a way that it would use more energy to return to a comfortable temperature than the amount used to maintain a temperature!

  5. Kiong says:

    Jim: If the temperature is set at 62 degree F when I leave the house at 7:00 am, should I turn off the heat and turn it back on when return at 7:00 pm ? What is the time (hour) interval before “OFF” and “ON”. Thanks. Lim


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