October is Energy Awareness Month, and with the blustery winds of fall beginning to move in, it's a good time to assess your home to make sure you're ready for the season's cooler temperatures. According to the US Department of Energy, space heating is typically the largest energy expense in the average American home, responsible for nearly 45% of residential energy bills. Don't be fooled by the name—space heating is more than just using a portable space heater. Any time you use energy to make it warmer in your home, whether you have a forced air system, a radiant heating system, or a steam or hot water radiator, you're engaging in space heating.
With that in mind, a big chunk of your change is coming into play as we enter the autumn months. Take a few easy steps to help make sure that you're not burning through your heating budget, and that the heat—and your money—is staying inside of your home, rather than leaking out into the cold.
Check for leaks
The fastest and most cost-effective way to reduce energy waste is to improve your home's insulation by finding and sealing leaks. Grab some caulk and weatherstripping, and see where your home may be bleeding heat.
- Look for drafty doors and windows. Apply weatherstripping to the base of doors where you can feel cool air creeping in, and caulk windows that leak air. For single-pane windows, consider installing storm windows to help provide additional insulation to these thin spots in your home.
- Other common leaky areas include: dropped ceilings, recessed lights, attic entrances, water and furnace flues (check your fireplace!), air ducts, outlets and switches, and plumbing and utility access.
Maintain your system
A dirty or clogged air filter can make your heating system work harder to push air throughout your home. Clean or replace your filters as recommended to help boost the performance of your heating system.
Winterize your habits
One of the cheapest things you can do to reduce your home energy use is to winterize your own behavior! As we enter the fall months, remind yourself to:
- Keep curtains and shades on any south-facing windows open during the day. This allows sunlight into your home, which provides free heating via radiant energy. Remember to close them at night, however, to keep the heat inside.
- With this solar boost, you can dial back on the heat during the day, particularly when you're not at home. Before you leave for school or work, set your thermometer back at least 8Â°F from where you comfortably have it while awake and at home. You don't need your home to be as warm when no one is there, and the sun's warmth will help make up the difference.
- You can also reduce your heating use while you're at home, but asleep. When you're in bed under the covers, you can comfortably turn down your thermostat between 5 and 8Â°F, helping to save money and energy while you do some recharging of your own.
For more information about how to save money and energy on home heating, check out these guides from the US Department of Energy: Energy Saver: Tips on Saving Money & Energy at Home, and ENERGY STAR's A Guide to Energy-Efficient Heating and Cooling.
- Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy. 2014. “Energy Saver: Tips on Saving Money & Energy at Home.” US Department of Energy. http://energy.gov/sites/prod/files/2014/09/f18/61628_BK_EERE-EnergySavers_w150.pdf
- Energy Saver. 2016. “Energy Saver: Heat Distribution Systems.” US Department of Energy. Accessed October 4. http://energy.gov/energysaver/heat-distribution-systems
- US Department of Energy. 2013. “Energy Saver 101 Infographic: Home Heating.” Accessed October 4. http://www.energy.gov/articles/energy-saver-101-infographic-home-heating