If you live in Massachusetts, you know winters can be brutal. It feels good to come into the sanctuary of a warm home and breathe clean air, and that luxury comes at a price to both your wallet and the planet. It sounds dramatic, but in the United States alone, buildings are responsible for almost 40% of national CO2 emissions, according to the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC). To put that in perspective, buildings produce more CO2 emissions than both the industrial and transportation sectors combined, the USGBC reports.
But, back to dollars and cents. Both new and long-time homeowners can benefit from revisiting this checklist every year. You won’t have to take action on all the items every year, but certainly assessing your home’s HVAC equipment and overall energy efficiency will only payoff in the long run—in both money and environmental sustainability.
1. Use natural heat.
The sun may be out less during the winter, but it still warms the earth while it’s low in the sky. Keep your curtains and shades open during the day, especially on the south-facing side of the house, to let in the warming light. Then, close them when the sun goes down to retain the heat.
Keep a cozy blanket around to wrap yourself in and conserve your body heat while you’re reading, watching television, or playing video games. At no extra cost, you can double your heating capacity by sharing a blanket with someone. Snuggling is one of the best parts of winter.
2. Lower the thermostat.
Obviously, the colder you keep your house, the less energy you’re going to pay to heat it.
In addition to saving money and energy, the overall goal is to live comfortably. Can you do both? The California Energy Commission’s Consumer Energy Center says keeping your thermostat at a maximum of 68 degrees during the day is the most energy-efficient indoor temperature. After that, you can lower heating costs by 5% for every degree you drop your thermostat down to 60 degrees.
3. Improve your home’s insulation.
Up to 25% of the heat you pay for literally blows out the window, according to the U.S. Department of Energy. Any handy homeowner and DIY-er can purchase peel-and-stick weather stripping for windows and doors. Older homes with original windows may require a window insulation kit to shrink seal the inside of the window in a plastic film sheet. It’s also important to assess the headers and sills of your windows, according to This Old House general contractor Tom Silva, who says the areas above and below the window may need additional insulation and sealing, especially in older homes.
4. Schedule an energy audit.
Contact your local utility company or collaborative program (Mass Save for Massachusetts residents) and get a formal energy audit. At no cost to you, energy experts assess and identify areas of your home in need of an energy-efficiency upgrade. If you’re thinking of purchasing an emergency generator, be sure to ask how much power your home needs to run in a power outage. These friendly professionals typically have a wealth of material and knowledge about current incentives, rebates, and financing programs so those money-saving upgrades can work for you.
6. Invest in energy-efficient equipment.
HVAC equipment with the Energy Star label can save you 20% on heating costs compared to a model made by a company not participating in the voluntary federal program. For more savings, buy heating and cooling systems with a high seasonal energy-efficiency ratio (SEER) because they use the least amount of energy. When is it time to upgrade? The typical gas- and oil-fired furnace should last for 15 to 20 years with scheduled maintenance, according to the experts at This Old House.
7. Purchase a preventative maintenance contract.
Regular maintenance by a factory-trained technician can save you up to 5% on heating costs. But wait . . . there’s more! Having a knowledgeable HVAC service technician inspect your equipment regularly keeps it running at its best and ensures small problems get caught before they turn into major headaches. Always get at least three no-cost quotes from local HVAC companies to get the best price for the friendly service and expert know-how you need.
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Plus, you’re always welcome to contact the trusted heating, cooling, and air quality experts at Total Temperature Control.