Tuesday, January 12, 2016

January Spending Freeze, Day 10: Improving our heat savings during the winter

Even though we live in the south and it rarely gets extremely cold, our electric bill in the winter has always been higher than I would like--higher, even, than the hottest summer months when we are forced to run our AC pretty continuously.  We've worked on this on and off over the years, but while we are on this spending freeze, Jordan and I are trying to significantly step up our heat savings game.  Here's what we've done so far, and what we still need to do.

1)  I mentioned the other day that we sealed up some cracks under our stairs where cold air was seeping in.  Since then I have been eagerly awaiting the (email) arrival of our power bill.  Today it came.  It was $128--down from $160 this same time last year.  I am pleased.  I had budgeted $150, so that's an extra $22 that can go straight to savings!

2)  We also use a heat saver on our dryer.  Jordan was thrilled to find ours new in the box at a thrift shop!  However, we did have to spend a few dollars on new dryer ducts.  This device re-directs the warm air from our dryer back into our house, instead of outside.  We don't use it every time we dry our clothes in the winter.  Sometimes, if it's been rainy, we've found it's better not to add the extra humidity to the house.  Also, I prefer to use it with unscented laundry detergent.  If we decide we don't want to use it, all we have to do is flip a switch and it sends the air outside instead.  Of course, this only works when the dryer is running.  It does the most good if we dry our clothes during the times we need heat the most--in the late evenings and early mornings.

3)  While we are spending time together in the evenings, watching TV or otherwise relaxing in the living room, sometimes I find that I am cold and no one else is.  If I'm the only one who is cold, I heat up my favorite microwaveable flax seed heat pack and cover up with a blanket instead of cranking up the heat for the whole house.

4)  This winter, I've tried to keep a closer eye on the thermostat.  In general, we keep it set low, especially at night.  On my way to bed, I try to remember to turn it down to 63 or lower, depending on how the house feels.  I'm mostly concerned with our kids staying warm.  Our bedrooms tend to be warmer than the rest of the house and we keep extra blankets on all of our beds, so if I don't turn it down, it sometimes gets uncomfortably warm at night.  We can always turn it back up if we are cold the next morning...  Or better yet, dry some clothes!

5)  By late morning on a clear day, I usually notice that the house is warming up on its own.  We have several windows that really catch the heat of the sun.  On hot summer days, we keep our curtains shut and even hang special shade material over the hottest windows.  In the winter, I am happy to let the extra heat in!  (In fact, I should run around and open all the curtains right now!)

Some days, even in January, our thermostat stays set at 61 or 62, and the house will stay several degrees warmer than that, never tripping the heat to come on.  I love those days!  For those frigid days that run our bills up, however, there are two things I'd like to do:

1) Get a programmable thermostat (someday when we aren't on a spending freeze), perhaps even one that can be adjusted remotely

2) Thoroughly search along the edges of the house, find where cold air is getting in, and seal it out

A few years ago I sewed this draft snake (actually, it's a pair of draft snakes, but only one survived) out of a beat up pair of khaki pants and some rice.  The long one is still in place under our sliding glass door, and now that we have laminate flooring instead of carpet it is even more instrumental in keeping the cold air at bay.  We have eliminated most of the obvious drafts, one way or another.  But we truly need to pull our furniture out and check for problem areas along all of our exterior walls, then fix them with caulk, expanding foam, or something more creative if necessary.  This would be an excellent little project for a chilly evening.  We will get it done soon!