North County Outlook - Community newspaper serving Marysville, Arlington, Tulalip, Smokey Point, Lakewood

Heat your home more efficiently

 

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If you haven't done so already, now is a good time to replace your old thermostat with a programmable thermostat to heat your home more efficiently.

With colder weather right around the corner, many homeowners are once again giving thought to their home heating needs and if it is possible to heat their homes more efficiently.

The United States Department of Energy reports that more than half of the energy used in a typical home goes toward heating and cooling costs.

With energy costs continually on the rise, many homeowners want to make the most of their heating systems and use the heat in the most efficient manner possible.

A heating system is most effective when the home is free from drafts.

Before investing in a new furnace or considering other drastic changes, determine if a few simple repairs can help your heating system perform more efficiently.

Insulation is one of the most important parts of the heating system. "A well-insulated home is going to keep heat in," said Neil Neroutsos, corporate communications for Snohomish County Public Utility District (PUD).

He advises home-owners to look for cracks around the doors and windows to seal.

This also will help in the summer when you are trying to keep the house as cool as possible. Determine if cold air is infiltrating the home elsewhere, such as from around pipes leading to the outdoors.

Caulking or foam insulation can remedy the situation.

Adding extra insulation in garages and attics also can help. The DOE says if insulation is less than R-30, the home probably can use more.

If after increasing insulation your home still feels drafty, it may require additional insulation in the exterior walls.

If making large changes to your heating system, the Snohomish PUD offers a weatherization program that gives incentives and rebates for those purchasing qualifying equipment like efficient heat pumps, duct sealing and better insulated windows, said Neroutsos. Those incentives can help offset the costs of these upgrades and will save money on the heating bill.

"These are all things that are going to make your heating system perform more efficiently," he said. "It definitely makes a big difference for your bill," he added.

More information on the PUD's program is available at http://www.snopud.com.

People should invest in a quality thermostat. Many modern room thermostats allow homeowners to set different temperatures for different times of day, and some even allow homeowners to establish a different heating schedule for the weekends.

Programmable thermostats allow homeowners to keep their homes cooler when unattended or during sleeping hours.

The heat can be programmed to turn on or increase in temperature when residents are expected to return home after school or work.

Even if you don't have a programmable thermostat, reducing temperature at night can help save energy.

"Turn it down at night to 55 degrees, if you're comfortable with that. Some people like it a little bit higher, but the lower you go the more you're going to save," said Neroutsos.

While homeowners are improving heating efficiency, they should reverse the direction of ceiling fan blades.

Having the blades spin clockwise will draw down the hot air that rises to the ceiling and allow it to better flow through the home.

"Those things that seem like small things really can add up to help you save money on your energy bill and, in general, make you more comfortable as well," said Neroutsos.

In addition to these suggestions, homeowners can employ these other energy- and cost-saving measures.

Reuse oven heat. After cooking a meal in the oven, open the oven door and let the residual heat escape into the kitchen and the rest of the house. Note, it is not safe to heat a home with the oven, and the oven should be turned off before opening the door.

Add a little humidity. Moist air tends to hold heat better. Add some humidity to dry indoor air, particularly if the relative humidity of the home as measured with a hygrometer is below 25 percent. Houseplants and home aquariums can add some warm moisture to the air and reduce reliance on heat.

Limit use of exhaust fans. After showering or cooking, keep the exhaust fan on for as little time as possible so that warm air is not drawn out of the home.

Heating a home efficiently means reducing drafts, programming the thermostat and making the most of other ways to warm up.

 

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