As contractors in Minnesota, cold weather is a part of our life. Because of this, we’re well-versed in the best ways to keep heat inside of a home even on the chilliest of days. By adding better insulation, improving heating systems and installing clean energy generation systems, you can save money while improving the performance of your home.
If you’re looking for energy-efficient ways to heat up your home this winter, here are a few approaches you can try.
Insulate Your Walls and Attic
Effective insulation throughout the walls and attic of your home will keep hot air in longer, requiring less energy overall to heat the house. The most common types of materials used for insulation include fiberglass, mineral (rock or slag) wool, cellulose, polyurethane and polystyrene.
If your home doesn’t contain insulation in its walls, blown-in insulation is also a great choice to improve the heating of your home, while also being more energy efficient. If your home already has insulation in the walls, it may not be worth the extra expense to blow-in additional insulation, however, if you have an unfinished attic it’s often worth it to upgrade the insulation.
The most crucial aspect when it comes to improving the insulation in your home isn’t the actual material itself — it’s the installation process. When properly installed, all types of foam insulation materials can dramatically reduce heat loss in your home. No matter which material you decide to use, an experienced contractor will know how to properly install insulation material, using special equipment like an infrared camera that detects airflow through the walls, ceilings and attic.
Replace Your Old Furnace with a More Efficient System
Most standing pilot furnaces sold before 1992 are nearing the end of their service lives and can waste 30 percent of its fuel or more per year. The American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy (ACEEE) recommends replacing these furnaces with a condensing furnace that has an annual efficiency of at least 90 percent.
Most furnaces built after 1992 have an annual fuel utilization efficiency (AFUE) rating of 80 percent, meaning you won’t save as much, but would be at least 10 percent if the new unit is operating perfectly. If you don’t know how to check the AFUE rating of your unit, consult an HVAC specialist or energy auditor to help you understand the energy saving potential a new system may provide.
If your house has a hot-water heat distribution system, such as radiators, you can greatly increase energy efficiency by updating to a modern condensing boiler with outdoor reset controls. The controller lowers boiler water temperature when the outdoor temperature is warmer and increases it when the outdoor temperature is colder, helping to optimize the temperature in your home.
Other Ways to Save Energy in Your Home
While the two options above are the most effective ways to reduce energy costs in your home, there are a few other things you can do as well, including:
Adding energy efficient upgrades to your home
Updating your home with high-efficiency windows, making insulation improvements or adding on-site renewables like solar and wind systems or geothermal heat pumps will bring your home into the future. If the expenses of such things scare you, you’ll be happy to learn that there are many federal and local tax incentives for energy efficiency upgrades to existing homes.
Change out incandescent light bulbs with compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs)
The cost of CFL light bulbs is less than one-third of the cost for incandescents. CFLs cost three dollars on average and last approximately 10,000 hours. Over a lifespan, CFLs use around $22 in electricity, making the total cost to you $25, compared to $80 for the same usability from an incandescent bulb.
Optimize your water heater
Although storage water heater standards were raised more than 15 years ago, it was probably not enough for many homeowners to justify throwing out their existing water heater, meaning your hot water system may be causing energy waste. To fix this, reduce the temperature to around 120 degrees. Next, insulate your hot water lines so they stay warmer between uses. Finally, replace your faucet, shower and bath fixtures with low-flow options to minimize water waste.