Save Money This Winter - Part 1: Easy ways to make your home more efficient

Winter heating bills can break the bank, but finding ways to keep your house warm does not have to cost an arm and a leg—or too much time!

After arctic air chilled Michiana almost a year ago, Chief Meteorologist Mike Hoffman advises folks to get a head start on winterizing their homes.

“I think people need to be prepared,” he said.

Chris Nyikos, energy auditor at Real Services, says the kitchen can be a major energy sink. He recommends fixing up faucets with low-flow aerators (1.5 gallons-per-minute).

“You’re using less hot water, so your water heater’s not running as often to try and recharge the system. So that’s one simple thing to do that folks can use to save some money,” said Nyikos.

Nyikos also says filling up the dishwasher completely is another penny-saver.

“Doing partial loads, you’re using more hot water more times so you’re causing the water heater to run more often to burn more gas to keep the tank hot downstairs."

Another gas-burner is using the thermostat to keep the house warm the entire day. Dialing it down a few degrees, says Nyikos.

“One you won't be burning as much gas to keep your house hot. Second is if you can keep it at a lower temperature, you're going to save money anyway because again, you're not using your gas. Your furnace doesn’t turn on. It doesn't cost you money,” he said.

Turn the thermostat down at night as well.

"You're going to be under the covers anyway, so you don't need the house that hot. When you get up in the morning, turn it up. In a few minutes, it should return to the temperature you're used to," Nyikos added.

Water heaters can be cash culprits, he says.

“Another good way to save money on your gas bill is if you turn your water heater down a few degrees so you’re not keeping a big tank of water hot all the time,” said Nyikos. “The more that you use that water that comes out of there, the more the water heater has to run—whether it be or electric.”

Dodging air drafts along doors is as simple as rolling up an old t-shirt or sweatshirt.

While you scope the ground, clean dusty air vents, giving your furnace more room to breathe.

“Your furnace wants to get as much air as it can back to the house so it can circulate it and get warm air back into your home in the most efficient way possible,” he said.

A quick and thorough dusting chips change off your heating bill. Replacing furnace filters once a month costs little and helps lower utility payments.

“The dirtier the filter is, the harder the furnace has to work to get warm air back to the house. Consider the furnace is like you and me: if we go out and exercise real hard, we’re tired when we’re done. If we try to put something over our mouth, we can’t breathe right. We can’t cool off right. A plugged filter is the same way on your furnace,” said Nyikos.
Basic furnace filters run $1.00.

Remember, warm air rises. Close flu dampers on fireplaces, and switch ceiling fans off “summer mode.” Doing so spins the fans clockwise.

“The heat that has risen to the ceiling will be pushed out now along the walls and back into the room, making us feel more comfortable,” he said.

Making the most of your windows helps you win over winter in the long-run. Opening drapes or mini blinds incubates rooms on the south-side of your house, since that is side receiving the most sun exposure.
Nyikos says these quick and simple tips will not slice the heating bill in half. However, little changes add up in your bank account.

“But you’re going to save a few bucks here and there coming back—and every little bit of money you can put back in your pocket helps.”
Real Services serves people in Elkhart, Fulton, Kosciusko, Marshall, and St. Joseph Counties. People who use their services receive free home weatherization audits.