During the coldest months of the year, your goal in home maintenance is to keep as much of the heated air indoors as possible. When draft comes in and the heated air escapes, your radiator or heating system works doubly hard to keep the temperature inside at a comfortable level.
The result? A veritable increase in your utility bills. Considering the fact that heating and cooling costs make up 50% of your electricity consumption, finding ways to heat and cool your house more efficiently will go a long way towards lowering your bills.
It’s even better if you can invest in some home improvement projects that will further enhance the efficiency of your home’s cooling and heating system.
In the next sections, we will try to find out which home improvement tasks will save you money during the winter. We’ll also dish out tips on how to determine if a home improvement project is a worthy investment to save your money during the winter.
Determining If a Home Improvement Project Is a Worthy Investment
First, how can you determine if a home improvement project is a worthy investment or not?
Since your goal is to save money for winter heating costs, check on the actual amount that you need to spend for the home improvement project. Compare this with the savings that you will get for electricity consumption and if it seems like the project will save you hundreds of dollars in a few years’ time, you should definitely go for it.
To give you an idea about which home remodelling projects are a worthy investment, take a look at the following list, as indicated in Investopedia.com:
- Addition of wooden deck: 80-85% average cost recovery
- Replacement of house siding: 75-83% average cost recovery
- Minor kitchen remodelling: 75-83% average cost recovery
- Major kitchen remodelling: 70-78% average cost recovery
- Window replacement: 75-80% average cost recovery
- Bathroom remodelling: 70-78% average cost recovery
- Remodelling of attic bedroom: 65-76% average cost recovery
- Basement remodelling: 65-75% average cost recovery
- Building of an additional floor: 65-74% average cost recovery
- Addition of wooden deck: 80-85% average cost recovery
These are the actual home improvement projects that will give you the best return of investment.
For making changes in order to have a more efficient heating and cooling system, the investments should be worth it in the long run. Even if you will only save $5 for every billing statement, that’s $60 per year. If you are not planning to move anytime soon, these savings will add up from year to year, so you really should consider making some improvements in your home to boost the efficiency of your heating and cooling system.
Which Home Improvement Tasks Will Save You Money During the Winter?
Here is a list of the home improvement projects that you can invest on and finish before the winter season, so that you can save money on utility bills and add overall value to your home:
Have your home audited by a professional for energy consumption
The first thing to do if you would like to improve your home’s heating and cooling system is have an energy audit. Through this, a qualified professional will visit your house and help you figure out which rooms are huge energy-wasters. Get in touch with your local power company – these businesses usually offer free energy audits, or conduct ones at minimal fees.
If your local power company does not offer such audits, look for a qualified contractor who does in-depth analysis of home energy systems. These pros can help pinpoint which appliances consume the most energy, which parts of the house can do with a better cooling or heating system, and address any other energy issues inside your house.
If you have old windows, buy a window insulation kit
A lot of homeowners swear by the effectiveness of plastic window wraps as a way to keep the costs down during winter. If you haven’t tried this energy solution yet, all you have to do is buy a window insulation kit in your local hardware store.
Having plastic-wrapped windows will keep the cold out, cut down on heat loss and give you a more efficient heating system overall. This works best for those who have old windows. The average cost of a window insulation kit is $15, which can cover about five windows. This investment can easily pay for itself over the course of one winter.
If you have old windows, consider having them replaced with more energy-efficient ones
The previous solution of buying a window insulation kit is just a temporary fix for keeping your heating costs down during the winter season. If you have the funds for it, consider replacing your windows altogether.
The investment might be a bit high initially, but it definitely pays off in the end. According to Energy Star, you can save anywhere from $126 to $465 per year for 2,000-square feet areas. If you can install your own windows, you can cut the installation costs by as much as 25%.
Use a programmable thermostat if you don’t already have one
How many times have you heard the tip that simply turning down your thermostat by one degree will already give you huge savings on electricity? The same thing applies when you buy a programmable thermostat. They practically computerize the control of your heating and cooling system.
If you have Wi-Fi at home, you can even download apps and control the temperature of your home using your smartphone or tablet computer.
The overall payback of investing in a programmable thermostat depends on the square footage of your home, the energy source of the heating system and whether central air is used or not. But using conservative estimates, a decent programmable thermostat should pay for itself in as little as 18 months.
Insulate your attic
The US Department of Energy has a program sheet that you can use as reference to determine the best type of insulation for your attic.
Generally, a 12” layer of insulation installed over a 300-square foot area will cost you anywhere from $110 to $170. This investment should pay for itself in about two to three years.
You can also use the calculations on the website of the Department of Energy as reference.
Run your ceiling fan in reverse
Did you know that simply running your ceiling fan in reverse direction during the winter season will help you save as much as 10% on your home’s heating and cooling costs?
Don’t run the heating system on full blast, then let the ceiling fan do all the work. If a couple of ceiling fans cost $50 to buy and your energy costs about $150 per month, you should see payback within half a year or so.
If you have major appliances which are ten years old and up, replace them
Refrigerators, washing machines, tumble dryers, dishwashers – all the major appliances which consume a lot of energy should be newer models. Anything that’s ten years old and up can do some huge damage on your electricity bills. The old models may have that vintage look on them, but they were not necessarily designed for energy efficiency.
Replace them with models which are energy efficient and water efficient, in the case of dishwashers and washing machines. Also, do not buy a huge washing machine if you live alone – just the smallest capacity model will do. Buying a bigger model than what you actually need will cause you to use more electricity and water, thereby increasing your bills.
During the winter season, clean or replace your furnace filters at least once a month
When your furnace or radiator has dirty filters, the mechanism works doubly hard to maintain a comfortable temperature inside your house. This is caused by the restricted airflow, which in turn increases the demand for energy. To make sure that you won’t forget cleaning or changing the filters, mark your calendar or set an alarm on your mobile phone.
You can also consider switching to a more permanent filter which reduces the waste and the hassle. There are electrostatic filters which are designed to not just make the furnace run efficiently, but also filter mold, viruses, pollen and bacteria. There are also HEPA-rated filters which remove more than 99.9% of airborne bacteria.
Additional tips for saving money during the winter season
You can also consider installing storm doors or windows, especially if you live in a state which experiences particularly harsh cold seasons. A storm door can increase the energy efficiency of your house by as much as 45%.
Combine this with the manual task of sealing, caulking and weatherstripping the gaps in your doors, windows, attic and basement – then you should realize huge energy savings. Tuning up the heating system of your home will also lead to big energy savings.
Finally, bundle up and wear warm layers of clothes while inside the house so that your heating system does not have to work harder than it has to.
Deciding which among these home improvement projects to take on is entirely up to you. Again, remember that such improvements will make the investment worth it in the end because the result is a more efficient heating system for your home during the winter, which is bound to lower your electricity usage in the long run.