Smart tips to increase your energy efficiency.
Clean your system and use a programmable thermostat. Each of these can save up to 5% with a small investment on your part.
Space heating solutions
New efficient space heaters (electric, propane or oil) can reduce the use of your central system. They’re inexpensive, and virtually maintenance free.
Domestic hot water efficiencies
Instant-on hot water systems can save money and provide endless hot water for greater comfort. If you get hot water from your heating system and you don’t have a storage tank you can save up to 20% of your fuel cost by installing a storage tank or on demand hot water heater.
Use outdoor reset controls
Why have your boiler always run as if it were 20 below outside? When recognized by automatic controls and sensors, higher outdoor temperatures allow your boiler to run more efficiently and use less fuel.
Replace outdated burners
Modern systems with retention head burners can save you up to 50% or more, providing greater comfort and a reduced carbon footprint. And, be to use a trusted contractor. Do your research, compare, and talk with your dealer about what they recommend for your house. Your dealer may offer financing incentives for new equipment.
We've heard it before but if you have not done it already, insulate, caulk, replace old windows and insulate any spaces where cold air can leak in.
Leaky windows can rob you of hundreds of dollars worth of heat over the course of a few heating seasons. To test which windows need help, cut a narrow strip of very light plastic about a quarter inch wide and 15 inches long (plastic dry cleaning bag material works very well). Tape the strip to the top of a pencil and hold it a few inches away from the window on a windy day. Be sure that your window is closed and locked. If outside air is blowing into the house, you'll see the strip moving. Don't forget to check your basement windows, too.
You can improve the integrity of your windows with some simple maintenance. Caulk around loose panes. Add weather stripping between sashes and sills.
You can also reduce leaks and improve a window's insulation by stapling or tacking a tight layer of polyurethane plastic sheeting on the outside. For extremely troublesome windows, you can apply plastic sheeting to the inside as well.
If there is still significant air leakage, window replacement is your best solution.
Make your doors work harder
An eighth of an inch gap at the bottom of an average 36 inch wide door is the same as having a hole in the wall about the size of half dollar coin. Think of all the cold air that can blow through a hole that size non-stop, 24/7, all winter long.
To hold heat indoors and keep the cold outdoors, all four sides of the door need to be weather tight. Rubberized weather stripping around the edges of the door that compresses slightly when the door is closed makes a tight seal to keep out the cold winter wind. Your local hardware store is a great source for all kinds of weather stripping products.
A weather tight storm door and a weatherized solid door make a great combination. The storm door forms a first defense against wind, and the trapped air between the doors makes a very effective "dead air" insulation barrier, too.
Keep in mind that the average open door makes a 21 square-foot hole in the wall that lets cold air come rushing into your nice warm house. So whether you're entering or exiting, you'll save on your heating bill if you're quick about it. Don't linger in the doorway, and make sure you have your car keys so you don't have to come and go twice.
Let the sun shine in
In Maine, the sun rises and sets slightly south of a true east to west line. That's why "southern exposure" is very desirable—it’s very basic passive solar. In the old days, builders would try to situate a new home so that the south side windows let the sun shine in and the north side of the house had fewer or sometimes no windows. Another old-timers' trick was to plant deciduous trees close to the south side of the house. That way, the leaves on the trees would block the sunlight in the summer, keeping the house cool. Then, when the leaves dropped in the fall, the sunlight would shine through and warm the home in the winter.
Where's the south side of your home? If you have deciduous trees, you're in great shape. But if your south side has lots of sun-blocking evergreens you might consider thinning or removing them to take advantage of free solar energy. A word of caution though: Depending on how large your windows are you might consider gradually thinning a group of evergreens to find the right balance between not enough and too much sun. You don't want to discover that your home becomes an oven in the summer because you took out too many trees.
Insulate. Insulate. Insulate.
Today's homes are much better insulated than homes built 30 or even 15 years ago. Many classic older homes have been upgraded with new, more effective insulation. Still, it's well worth taking an insulation inventory. Do you know the thickness and the quality of the insulation in your exterior walls, crawl spaces, and ceilings? Do you know their "R-factor"?
The R stands for resistance to the flow of heat through the air (convection) or through solids (conduction). The higher the R factor, the slower heat travels through it. If you have doubts about your insulation consult a local builder or insulation specialist for an expert opinion. You'll find lots of do-it-yourself books and instructions on insulation at your local hardware store, too.
Outlets, switches, and junction boxes on outside facing walls can be weak spots in your overall insulation system. Most hardware stores carry spray cans of foam insulation with easy instructions on how to seal off those cold spots.
Consider thermal window quilts. These thick, quilted fabric shades can help keep your home warmer by adding another layer of "dead air" in your window casing which helps prevent cold from leaking in.
Use foam rubber pipe insulation to insulate any piping that is near the outside walls of the house.
Fireplace and woodstove dampers
A fireplace is a wonderful feature to have in a home, but not very efficient for heating. Once your fireplace fire or woodstove fire is totally out and no glowing coals or embers are left and the fireplace or stove is cool to the touch, it's time to close the damper. An open flue is an open invitation for your home heating dollars to fly up and out of the chimney.
Five small ways to reduce your heating costs
Vacuum your baseboard units. If you have baseboard heat, remove the baseboard covers to expose the heating pipes and their heat dispersing vanes. Use a kitchen broom to sweep as much dust and lint as you can and then vacuum it off. This will help your baseboards transfer heat to the room more efficiently.
Remove obstructions. Anything that stands between your baseboards, radiators, or floor vents makes it harder for warmth to get to the rest of the room. Make sure that armchairs, couches, drapes, bookshelves, etc. are not blocking your heat sources. Be sure to keep rugs slightly away from baseboards, too, because air needs to be able to pass through the bottom of the baseboard in order to force warm air out of the top.
Keep closet doors closed. You don't need to keep your clothes at room temperature so why pay for the extra fuel?
Close your curtains and shades at night to trap heat inside. Open them during the day to let heat from the sun in. And be sure to keep windows on the south side of your house clean to maximize solar gain.
Invest in a high-efficiency oil-fired water heater
Ask your oil dealer about an indirect water heater system. With these modern water heaters, you can enjoy a practically endless stream of hot water. During the heating season, this hot water is basically free; a byproduct of your home heating use. In the summer time, Oil heat is one of the most cost-efficient methods for making hot water.
Every friend is worth 500 Btu's per hour.
Invite a bunch of friends over for a pot luck dinner. At 98.6° of body temperature, humans give off approximately 500 Btu's every hour. Put enough people in the room, and you can heat it with human power. Not to mention the warmth of having your friends and family getting together.