Winter’s here! We can help you keep your cool without freezing
Every winter, Minnesota’s first sub-zero days bring a host of outdoor safety and comfort concerns: How is your engine doing in the frigid cold? What if the bus is late? How quickly will you get frostbite?
But you can’t escape by hiding under your covers until the thermometer pulls up from its nosedive — there are cold-weather concerns indoors too. Winter may heighten your need to address drafty windows and air leaks, as well as increased energy use from heating (read: bigger bills).
While winter’s annual gifts of discomfort and high utility bills may leave something to be desired, we have something better: several straightforward suggestions to cold-proof your house (and your wallet) — ranging from quick and easy to more complex with bigger savings potential.
Cool down while you’re out: Setting back the temperature of your thermostat while you are out of the house (e.g., at work, running errands) can make a big dent in your energy spending. Even better? Make energy saving more convenient by investing in a programmable or smart thermostat. A smart thermostat will allow you to control the temperature remotely from your phone, and qualify you for some utility programs that can further savings.
Use a damper: Fireplaces can offer comfy nights curled up with a cup of cocoa, but they are also a major source of air loss in the winter. Air escaping through the fireplace can account for up to 19 percent of your heating bill. To stop your money from flying up the chimney, close the damper on your fireplace when it’s not in use.
Keep it cozy: Heating water takes a lot of energy, and if the heat escapes through the metal walls of the tank, that energy is wasted. If your water heater is warm to the touch, it needs a blanket. Cover it with a recycled denim water heater blanket and insulate the pipes to keep your hot water hot.
Seal it up: Unfortunately, not all chilly house problems can be solved with a blanket. Air leakage happens when outside air enters your home and conditioned (heated or cooled) air escapes through cracks and openings. Fixing leaks through a process called air sealing will make your home more comfortable and save you money on energy over time.
Warm up the walls: Another underlying issue that could cause draftiness in your home is lack of insulation — especially if you live in an older home. To do its job well, insulation should fill the wall cavity completely, including in your attic. A properly insulated home saves money on energy in the winter because it helps eliminate unnecessary heating and cooling, which can account for up to 60 percent an average single-family home’s utility bill.
Insulation and air tightness tests are included in many standard energy audits. Check with your utility to see if there are audit options available for you, and explore the related links below for more winter tips for energy savings.
Home Energy Hub: Prepare Your Home for Winter Savings
DOE: Fall and Winter Energy-Saving Tips
Home Energy Hub: Stay Warm in Minnesota