How to Save on Home Heating Fuel in Vermont
Winter is an expensive season, largely because of the cost of keeping the home warm. Fortunately, there are a lot of small, low-cost things you can do on your own to reduce seasonal heating costs, from tightening up your house before the weather hits to finding cost-effective options for home heating fuel.
Close and latch your windows: This seems so simple but you would be surprised at how many people neglect to latch, or even close, their windows when the cold weather sets in. Winter comes on slowly and it’s easy to close the windows you see but forget the ones you don’t. When you start regularly using heat inside the house, walk from room to room and from floor to floor to close and latch every window. And don’t forget those doors you may not regularly use.
Close the attic hatch: Here’s one that a lot of people miss! Make sure your attic hatch is closed, latched, and weatherized. If you rarely use your attic, this can be a one-time effort.
Interested in more ideas to help you live more energy efficiently? Read our eBook to discover three Top Improvements for Home Energy Savings.
Examine your house for drafts and light: Walk around the inside of your home and feel around windows and doorways for drafts. It will be easier to feel drafts when it is colder outside, but you should be able to locate some problem areas in early fall. Also note any areas where you can see light coming through spaces around doors, windows, and other openings. Spend some time in the basement to see if there are penetrations (like a hose bib, or utility chase), because if light is coming in, so is cold air. Use caulk or weather stripping in areas where you find drafts and/or light to reduce air flow.
If your old or aging home is plagued by drafty windows, or if you have a few doors that won’t be opened for the season, apply rope caulk to fill in around the casing (this caulk is often applied in the fall and removed in the spring).
Caulk exterior cracks: Now walk around the exterior of the house and use caulk to fill in any noticeable cracks or holes. Attend to uninsulated areas around dryer vents, outlets, and other openings.
Close and weatherize doors you don’t use: If you tend to close off certain rooms in your house, so as not to waste heat in those spaces, close the door tightly and apply weather stripping and/or Q-Lons to eliminate air flow.
Use door sweeps and thresholds: These money savers are inexpensive and easy to apply to external doors, and internal doors that lead to colder rooms (like the basement).
Remove your air conditioner: If you have an air conditioner in your window, the outside air has an easy route in. You can buy an insulated cover for your air conditioner, if you prefer to leave it in place, but the easiest and least expensive option is to remove the unit from your window.
Plug the chimney: If you don’t use your chimney as a vent for your wood stove or furnace, it’s just venting the warm air from your house. Use a chimney balloon to keep the warm air where it should be—in your home.
Install a programmable thermostat: A programmable thermostat will ensure that you’re not using your heating system to heat an empty house and that you’re not coming home to a cold house. You can program it to keep the house cooler when you’re sleeping and to vary in temperature based on how much you expect to be in the house over the weekends or during the evenings. These tools are best suited to a home heated with a central heating system like an oil- or propane-fired furnace or boiler. You can even find thermostats that allow you to control your heat from your cell phone. Proper use of a programmable thermostat can save up to $180 annually on heating costs.
Foam insulation around windows and other openings: This project is for those who are a little more comfortable with do it yourself projects. A lot of heat loss happens around windows and other openings in the wall (like dryer vents or outlets) because few windows or doors are air-sealed around the trim. To reduce air flow, remove the window trim and use spray foam to insulate the space.
Find more tips for home energy efficiency in our eBook:
Top Improvements for Home Energy Savings.
About Laurie Fielder
Laurie directs VSECU’s statewide VGreen energy savings loan program. Previously, she worked for the weatherization program at the Central Vermont Community Action Council (now Capstone), and for a successful residential solar installer. She enjoys helping Vermonters learn about efficiency and renewable financing options that maximize the savings of these smart investments. She lives in Woodbury with her family and enjoys the outdoors, walking the dog, and tackling home improvement projects.