Each year Americans spend 50 percent of their energy dollars on heating and cooling, but it is possible to improve your home heat efficiency. The Iowa Energy Center, an organization that teaches consumers about energy efficiency, recommends a number of low-tech ways to improve the heating efficiency in a home. For example, heating efficiency is hindered when furnaces work harder to force air through a dirty filter. Other recommendations include thermostat placement, window repair, landscaping for energy savings and increasing the home’s humidity.
Make sure your thermostat is mounted away from windows and doors. Sunlight streaming through windows can trick the thermostat into thinking that the house is warm enough, and cold breezes near doorways cause the thermostat to switch on the furnace when it’s not needed. It doesn’t take a great deal of technical skill to install a new thermostat when it’s necessary as most thermostats are user-friendly. Look for an energy star thermostat that can be programmed for day, night and weekend use. Scientists at the Iowa Energy Center report that programmable thermostats pay for themselves in less than a year.
The U.S. Department of Energy reports that air leaks through windows accounts for 10 to 25 percent of heating bills. Make the most of the solar energy that streams into windows facing south by keeping them uncovered when the sun is shining, but covering them at night to minimize heat loss. Keep windows that face north and west covered during times when you don’t need natural light. Storm windows improve a window’s efficiency by 25 to 50 percent, so make sure the glass isn’t cracked and that the gasket or caulking stays in good condition. Keep windows clean, because dirt and grime reflect solar heat.
Deciduous trees lose their leaves in late fall, which allows sunlight to stream through to warm your house. In the summer, the leaves block sunlight and reduce cooling needs with the shade. Use evergreens on the north and west sides of the house to serve as windscreens that block out chilling winds. Speak to the experts at your County Extension Office to get more information about which trees in your area help to reduce the energy costs for your house. Be sure to plant them far enough away to prevent roots from interfering with the house’s foundation. Trees are a smart investment. Besides saving energy costs for a home, they add value to the overall real estate.
Keeping your home humidified conditions the air and makes you feel warmer. Keeping the humidity at 35 percent allows you to lower the thermostat setting two or three degrees. When the air in the room is too dry, moisture evaporates from your skin and makes you feel chilly. Science writers at Iowa State University report that increasing your home’s humidity has other benefits, including lowering static electric shocks, and helping to moisturize your skin. It also helps people breathe easier. However, be aware that too much humidity provides a breeding ground for mildew and mold.