Imagine this scenario. Your husband is out of town for work and the kids have late-night soccer practice. During the day, ole’ Mother Nature decides to throw a cold spell at us, and by the end of practice, your kids are sporting a blue hue on their lips that not even the best lipsticks can replicate.
No worries – you got this! You walk in the door, turn on baths, and flip the switch for the heater. When baths are done, your oldest begs you to turn the temperature up higher.
You have two choices: brace yourself for the night of freezing toes and “Moooommmmm. It’s so cold!” or crack up that bad boy and face the future electricity bill.
Practically all homes in the Cincinnati area rely on a heating system such as a forced air heat unit or a boiler with hydronic heat. Using a central heating unit like a furnace, heat pump, or boiler can be expensive… and the cost of natural gas and electricity continues to rise.
So is our choice to freeze or serve Ramen for a week to afford our heating bills?
Moms need an alternative beyond just settling for nights of cheap pasta to afford heat. Thomas & Galbraith Heating, Cooling & Plumbing provided us with tips for staying warm while lowering heating costs and energy bills. With these tips, you won’t have to worry about a cold room and frigid kids, nor the high price for keeping the family warm.
Keep More Heat Inside – Warm Air In, Cold Air Out
Heat loss in homes is a significant issue throughout Cincinnati and the United States. It drives up heating bills while making it difficult for families to stay warm.
When heat loss takes place, hot air escapes from the residence while cool air from outside sneaks inside the home, lowering the home’s temperature… and driving your kids to beg for you to crack up the heat.
Common causes of heat loss are poor insulation levels and air leaks across the home. These openings create a path for the free flow of warm air to the outdoors and cold air to your rooms. When the heated air is lost through these leaks, your heater must generate more warm air to keep your house warm – obviously, this uses more energy and increases the price of your heating bill.
- Insulation Levels: According to the International Energy Conservation Code (IECC), homes in the Cincinnati area require an R-value of 38 for attic insulation and loft insulation. Insulation levels should be 10 to 14 inches deep for R-38. If your attic insulation measures less, adding insulation will reduce heat loss and save energy on home heating, while making a big difference in your ability to keep your family warm this winter.
- Air Leaks: Leaks throughout a home should be sealed to limit heat loss and keep warm air inside the living space. Install weather stripping, add insulation, and caulk holes to seal air leaks. Target common points of heat loss such as the attic access, recessed can lights, window sills and window frames, doors, duct connections, and band joists underneath wood floors. For a quick winter season solution, hang blankets to block drafts coming from a leaky window frame or door.
The home’s heating system is designed to provide enough heat for the square foot dimensions of the living area. Heat escapes through the ventilation system or the natural rising of warm air, making a big difference to your comfort on those winter cold nights.
Here is how to reclaim your home’s heated air:
- Equipment like a heat recovery ventilator keeps your house warm by pulling heat out of exhaust air before it exits the house. This heat energy is added to incoming cold air from the outdoors, essentially recycling the hot air generated by your heater.
- Ceiling fans aren’t just for summer! A ceiling fan helps you make more use of the warm air, guiding it to where it is needed. Because heated air naturally rises, running the ceiling fan in a clockwise motion allows warm air to move downward to the spaces where people are.
- Use when occupied: the use of ceiling fans only helps with saving money when people are present to feel the effects – otherwise, you’re just wasting energy. Use the ceiling fan when a room is occupied and turn it off once everyone exits the space.
Keep Your House Warm in Winter with Solar Energy
Thomas & Galbraith must have spoken with my mom, because this is her favorite trick for keeping the house warm. Say hello to the sun.
The sun is an excellent source of energy and free heat! When you keep the house warm with solar energy, you lower your energy bills and use your heater less.
- Open window coverings during the day to allow direct sunlight in. South facing windows don’t see much direct sun all winter long, so you can keep these shades closed and focus on opening curtains and blinds in other rooms.
- Once the sun goes down, close coverings over each window frame. Doing so will insulate the window and create a barrier between the home’s warm air and the cool glass, so no heat is lost on contact.
- Remove any window coverings that reflect the summer’s heat. Aluminum foil is commonly added to windows because it reflects the heat away from the home, so take aluminum foil down this time of year to better keep the house warm this winter.
- Dark colors absorb more heat energy than light colors. If you decorate using dark paint colors and furnishings, your rooms may feel warmer throughout the day than rooms with light features.
Don’t Fall for Old-Wives Tales
As energy bills rise, tips circulate claiming to share methods for lowering your heating bill.
We are thankful Thomas & Galbraith helped us navigate which are true and which aren’t… and actually may not even be safe!
- Closing vents to unused rooms won’t save money on heating bills. It’s important all vents stay open so your HVAC system doesn’t become pressurized. Too much pressure can force warm air out of living areas and restrict airflow through the heater causing it to consume more energy. Your HVAC unit can also be damaged by this practice, so leave vents open in unused rooms throughout your house.
- Don’t shut the bathroom door or bedroom door just because the room is empty. You want to leave doors open so that warm air is able to flow throughout all the living areas without barriers to keep all spaces warm.
- Use a programmable thermostat. Set schedules around your daily agenda so the home’s temperature always feels comfortable when you arrive and the rooms aren’t cold after a long day away.
- Fill a water bottle with hot water and place it at the foot of your bed for extra heat while you sleep. The hot water radiates heat to keep your feet warm. An electric heating pad or blanket can also add warmth to your bed without much expense.
- Don’t add heat to your rooms by leaving the oven door open. Having the oven door open is very dangerous, as it could cause a fire or someone could get burned. A space heater is a much safer and efficient tool for adding heat to rooms.
- Replace your furnace filter throughout the winter. If the furnace filter is clogged, airflow through the HVAC equipment is stifled and more energy is consumed by the heater. Check the furnace filter monthly and replace it when needed.
Stay Warm on Cold Days
Cold, winter days in Cincinnati are as expected as our kindergartener bringing home the sniffles.
But just like washing our hands and not touching our faces fights school germs, there are numerous ways we can combat the cold without increasing the cost of our heating bill and upping the use of your heater.
In addition to the tips above, Thomas & Galbraith offers furnace repair service and maintenance services to improve the energy efficiency of your heating system.
See why Cincinnati moms love them! Contact them to request service before the cold settles in for a long winter’s stay.
“We recently dealt with some sewage backups this Summer, and Thomas & Galbraith were our first choice of whom to call. They got out to us quickly, we got a pretty thorough education on what all could be going on, what our options would be, etc. I even had a call from the regional district supervisor to let me know that they are all about educating homeowners and then letting us make the choice we feel is best. I love that they aren’t pushy sales people; they are truly there to educate and then provide services as requested. Last time they came out, I asked the guys to schedule our HVAC tune up as well as these temperatures started to fall! I love their straightforward pricing and their customer service. I definitely recommend Thomas & Galbraith for all your HVAC and plumbing needs.”
– Courtney Snow, Cincinnati/Dayton Mom Collective Owner