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Wearing the right fabrics can make a big difference in how warm you feel during winter months. Thermals and woolens are excellent choices when it comes to retaining body heat and keeping out cold air. Made from materials like merino wool or polyester fleece, thermals create an insulating layer next to the skin. The natural fibers in wool thermals trap warm air close to the body, while wicking away moisture. Synthetic fabrics like polyester fleece provide lightweight insulation as well. Long underwear bottoms, tops, leggings, and undershirts made of thermals can be worn under your regular clothes for extra warmth.
Wool sweaters, socks, and accessories provide similar benefits. The structure of wool fibers allows them to trap air and retain heat. Wool also continues insulating even when damp. Thicker woolens like sweaters, cardigans, and pullovers create an effective barrier against chilly conditions. Wool socks help keep feet warm and comfortable inside boots or other closed toe shoes. Hats, scarves, and gloves made of wool provide insulation to prevent body heat from escaping through your head and extremities.
Layering up with the right thermals and woolens allows you to turn down the thermostat without sacrificing comfort. The insulation they provide can lower heating bills while keeping you just as toasty as higher temperatures. Jill, a mother of two in Minnesota, swears by wool socks and long underwear. "I've saved so much on utilities since I started wearing wool thermals under my clothes during winter. My kids and I stay nice and cozy inside without having to blast the heat."
Similarly, Ryan who recently moved to Chicago found wool sweaters to be a game changer. "I didn't realize what a difference wool makes until this winter. The sweaters I got are so warm that I barely need a jacket when I go outside." He keeps his apartment temperature set much lower than in previous years but feels just as comfortable.
One of the biggest culprits of heat loss in a home is air leakage through drafty windows and doors. Gaps and cracks around these openings allow warm air to escape and cold air to seep in. Sealing these leaks can lead to significant energy savings without requiring you to bundle up more or turn up the thermostat.
There are a few easy and affordable ways to seal air leaks around movable joints and openings. For windows, make sure the sashes are in good working order so the windows close tightly. Next, install weatherstripping around the sashes to seal gaps when closed. Look for adhesive foam or V-strip weatherstripping that you can easily apply. Make sure to reinforce seals with caulk as well. Around doors, install door sweeps along the bottoms and apply weatherstripping along the edges. For sliding doors, apply weatherstripping along the edges and top and bottom tracks. Reinforce the fixed panels with caulk too.
If you have drafty thresholds, apply threshold seals to help reduce air leaks. To seal gaps along baseboards, outlets, switches, and other fixed cracks, use caulk or spray foam sealant. These can keep heated air from escaping through the cracks. Properly sealing your attic access door or hatch can also prevent warm air from rising into your attic.
Dianna, a retiree in Vermont, used weatherstripping and caulk to seal up her drafty 100 year old farmhouse. "I was amazed at how much of a difference sealing everything up made," she said. "My heating bill went down 30% the first winter after I weatherstripped the old windows and doors. Now I stay nice and cozy inside without having to constantly adjust the thermostat."
Marcus, a dad in Massachusetts, had a similar experience. "Our old house had all sorts of little cracks and openings that I never realized were letting in cold air. After sealing everything up with caulk and new weatherstripping, the draftiness went away. The kids aren't complaining about being cold anymore, plus our energy use dropped quite a bit."
Cold hardwood or tile floors can make a room feel chilly even when the thermostat is set to a comfortable temperature. Heat escapes through the flooring materials, creating a cold surface underfoot. Using area rugs helps address this issue by providing a warm and insulating layer between your feet and the floor.
Area rugs trap air between their fibers, creating a barrier to prevent heat loss. Natural fiber rugs like wool are excellent insulators, while synthetic fibers like polyester and nylon also provide warmth. The thicker the rug's pile, the better it will retain heat. Large area rugs are ideal for living rooms, dens, and other gathering areas. Runners can warm up high traffic hallways. Smaller rugs by beds, at seating areas, and in entryways prevent cold floors from making you shiver.
When shopping for rugs, focus on ones made of natural or synthetic fibers rather than thin flatweaves. Prioritize larger sizes to cover more floor space. Thicker pile heights help hold heat better. Pile heights between 0.25-0.5 inches work well for insulation. For extra cushioning, use a rug pad underneath. The pad acts as another layer of insulation.
Area rugs create cozy spaces that feel warmer than the actual thermostat reading. Tricia, a mother of three in Minnesota, struggled with cold tile floors in her living room. "No matter how high I turned up the heat, my feet were always freezing on the tile floor. It drove up my energy bills without making us feel any warmer." She finally invested in a large wool area rug. "The rug completely changed how warm the living room feels. My kids play on the floor now without complaining about the cold."
James dealt with drafty hardwood floors in his 19th century home. "We kept nudging the thermostat higher and higher, but it barely helped with the cold hardwoods." After some research, he purchased synthetic area rugs for his living room and bedrooms. "Everyone is much more comfortable now, plus I've lowered the temperature a few degrees without any complaints. The rugs made a huge impact for a small price."
Lowering your thermostat setting at night can lead to big savings on your energy bills without sacrificing comfort. Since you"ll be tucked under blankets and sheets while sleeping, you don"t need temperatures as warm as daytime. Turning down the heat at bedtime by 5-10 degrees can reduce heating costs 10-15% annually.
Here"s why it works - when sleeping, your body temperature naturally decreases as metabolic rates slow. You"re also generating less body heat when at rest compared to being active during the day. So even though the room itself is cooler, your body stays sufficiently warm under the covers. Setting a programmable or smart thermostat to automatically dial back temperatures at a set bedtime makes it effortless.
The key is ensuring the overnight low isn"t so cold that it disrupts sleep.Aim for no more than 10 degrees below your normal daytime setting. For most people, somewhere between 60-65 degrees Fahrenheit works well. You can always fine tune the exact temperature as needed. Monitoring your comfort level over the first few nights helps identify the optimal overnight thermostat setting.
Those who have embraced lowering thermostats at bedtime have noticed real savings without sacrificing quality sleep. Greg, who recently installed a smart thermostat, says, "I programmed it to lower the temperature by 8 degrees after we go to bed. I was skeptical at first that I would be cold, but I"ve slept just as soundly while saving on my energy bills."
Similarly, Amanda found she didn"t even need extra blankets after turning down her thermostat from 72 to 65 degrees for overnight hours. "Even my husband who usually runs hot was perfectly comfortable. And our gas bill has dropped significantly over this winter since making the change."
For families with children, aim for slightly warmer overnight temperatures around 65-68 degrees. Monitor kids" comfort levels and adjust accordingly. The elderly or those susceptible to feeling cold may also prefer slightly warmer settings. Start with a minimal decrease of 5 degrees and tweak from there.
Harnessing the natural warmth of sunlight can reduce your heating costs without requiring any active system or energy use. Passive solar heating takes advantage of your home's design to capture warmth from the sun. Strategic window placement along with interior colors and materials can allow solar energy to provide supplemental heat for free.
The key is allowing sunlight to enter your home through south-facing windows unobstructed. During colder months when the sun sits lower in the sky, the incoming solar radiation gets absorbed by the floors and walls. Darker colors and materials with thermal mass like stone, tile, and concrete absorb and retain heat effectively. The absorbed warmth continues radiating later into the evening after sunset.
Meanwhile, windows on the north side should be limited, since they bring in colder light without capturing much heat. Insulated shades can help regulate heat loss on this side of the home at night. Proper overhangs above south-facing windows allow more sunlight to enter during winter when rays are lower, while blocking excessive solar gain during summer months when rays are more direct.
With good passive solar design, you can keep your home warmer on sunny winter days and reduce heating requirements overall. Keeping window coverings open during daylight hours is key to allow maximum solar heat gain. Close insulating coverings at night to trap warmth inside.
Jenna installed new energy-efficient windows to take better advantage of passive solar. "I was deliberate about adding more windows facing south while limiting those facing north. I'm amazed by how much warmer the living room feels from sunlight alone on cold but sunny days." She keeps the thermostat lowered and relies more on free solar heat.
Lucas took a holistic approach to optimizing his passive solar design. "I worked with an architect to determine the best window placements and interior layouts. We used tile floors and concrete walls to hold in more warmth from the sunlight." As a result, his heating system runs less frequently even on cloudy days.
Cooking meals efficiently can help lower energy bills this winter. Slow cookers and pressure cookers allow you to prepare food using less energy than conventional stovetops or ovens. With slow cookers, ingredients cook slowly over several hours in a sealed crockpot. The enclosed environment traps steam to tenderize meats and blend flavors at lower temperatures. Pressure cookers speed up cooking by raising the boiling point of liquid inside the sealed pot. The high-pressure environment cooks food faster using less energy.
Both appliances can reduce your cooking energy usage substantially compared to traditional cooking methods. Ovens tend to heat full cavities to high temperatures, wasting energy when cooking smaller portions. Stovetops lose heat to the surroundings. Slow cookers and pressure cookers focus energy directly on food for more efficient cooking. Energy savings can range from 20-80% compared to ovens and stovetops. For instance, cooking a pork roast in a slow cooker for 8 hours uses about half the energy of roasting it in the oven. With a pressure cooker, you can cook dried beans 70% faster than on the stovetop.
When cooking in bulk, slow cookers work wonderfully for stews, chilis, roasts, dried beans, and more. Prep ingredients the night before and let the slow cooker do the work during the day. Brown meats first for more flavor. Keep the lid on and the crockpot will use minimal electricity while simmering food all day. For quick weeknight meals, pressure cookers allow you to cook rice, beans, meat, and more in a fraction of traditional cooking times. Braises that usually take hours can cook in minutes using the pressure cooker. Both appliances keep heat focused on food rather than wasting energy heating your kitchen.
Many people who use slow cookers and pressure cookers notice significant energy savings. Alicia, a working mom in Rhode Island, cut her monthly energy bill by using a slow cooker. "I prep big batches of soups, stews, and chilis on Sunday and refrigerate or freeze them. Then during the week I can just reheat individual portions rather than cooking from scratch each night." The time savings plus lower energy usage from not using her stove has made a big difference.
Meanwhile, college student James found his electricity bills dropped after he started using a pressure cooker. "I can cook dried beans and rice dishes in 20 minutes that used to take over an hour on the stove. It"s way more energy efficient." He enjoys coming home to quickly cooked meals without needing to use the oven.
Upgrading to a more energy-efficient HVAC (heating, ventilation and air conditioning) system is one of the most impactful steps you can take to reduce energy usage while keeping your home comfortably heated and cooled. As HVAC equipment accounts for over 40% of a home's energy use, an upgraded, high-efficiency system can lead to significant cost savings.
New HVAC systems feature technology that enables them to do more with less energy input. By installing a model that's Energy Star certified, you can realize savings of up to 30% on heating and cooling costs. Key areas where efficiency is improved include the heating source, distribution, and controls.
On the heating side, modern furnaces achieve higher AFUE (annual fuel utilization efficiency) ratings of 90% or more, meaning 90% of the fuel is converted to usable heat rather than being wasted. Upgrading from an older 60-80% AFUE furnace to a 95% AFUE model can lower heating costs by hundreds of dollars annually. High-efficiency heat pumps offer electric heating and A/C in one unit. Ductless mini-split heat pumps allow zoning to customize temperatures in different rooms.
For central A/C, look for a high Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio (SEER). SEER ratings above 16 provide significant efficiency gains over older units. Variable-speed compressors optimize cooling output as conditions change rather than running at full power constantly. Proper sizing to match your home's needs also improves efficiency.
On the distribution side, sealing and insulating ductwork prevents cooled or heated air from leaking out before reaching living spaces. Smart duct zoning further optimizes efficiency by distributing conditioned air only where and when it's needed.
Advanced thermostats add intelligence to the system, learning your usage patterns and preferences to automatically regulate temperatures for comfort and savings. Models with wi-fi connectivity allow remote adjustment via phone for added convenience.
Upgrading your decades-old HVAC equipment to a modern, high-efficiency system provides superior performance and energy savings. The upgrade cost may be recouped in as little as 2-3 years through lower utility bills. Maintenance costs are also reduced thanks to fewer repairs needed on new equipment.
Jeremy, a homeowner in Oklahoma, saw his cooling costs drop after installing a new 20 SEER A/C unit. "My energy bills in the summer went down by over $60 per month even though it's been hotter than normal. The new air conditioner does an amazing job keeping my home cool while using way less electricity."
Meanwhile, the new 95% AFUE furnace Susan purchased in Minnesota paid for itself in under two years. "I was wasting so much money heating my home with the old 80% furnace. The new one keeps us just as warm but uses much less natural gas. I'm glad I invested in the energy-efficient upgrade."
Installing a programmable or smart thermostat enables you to automatically control home temperatures for comfort and savings. With these thermostats, you can set customized heating and cooling schedules to match your daily routines. This ensures you're not wasting energy heating or cooling an empty home. Programmable models maintain these set schedules indefinitely. Meanwhile, smart thermostats learn your habits and adjust to your preferences automatically over time.
The main benefit of these thermostats is the ability to program lower temperatures when away or sleeping and higher temperatures when home and active. You can easily set the thermostat back 10-15 degrees for 8 hours while at work or school. Then have it revert to a comfortable temperature by the time you return home. Likewise, you can dial back temperatures overnight as previously discussed. Some models even detect when you leave home and enter sleep mode automatically. This all adds up to significant energy savings compared to maintaining constant temperatures all day and night.
Beyond programming, smart thermostats like the Nest Learning Thermostat use built-in sensors and algorithms to learn your schedule and make intelligent adjustments. They detect when you're home based on motion and adjust temperatures to your liking in different rooms. The thermostats continue adapting to maximize comfort and efficiency. With their wi-fi connectivity and smartphone apps, you can also adjust your thermostat remotely.
Making the investment in a programmable or smart thermostat provides convenience and control over home heating and cooling. It allows you to limit energy waste from heating and cooling an empty home without sacrificing comfort when present. Those who have installed such thermostats have seen noticeable drops in their energy bills.
Greg switched from a manual to a programmable thermostat and noticed savings of around 15% on his heating and cooling bills. "I programmed it with a schedule that matches when we're typically home vs away. Now I don't have to worry about constantly adjusting it."
Meanwhile, Amy loves the convenience of her Nest smart thermostat. "I can turn up the heat on my way home so it's nice and toasty when I arrive. And I don't have to worry if I forget to lower it when leaving since the Nest auto-detects when I'm gone." She has saved over $150 annually in energy costs since installing the smart thermostat.