Prepare Your Home for Winter
Make your home more comfortable and energy efficient with simple strategies.
Winter in Wisconsin—that means snow, ice and colder temperatures. While we enjoy the picturesque landscapes and outdoor activities this time of year brings, we also need to shift gears and adjust the ways we keep our homes comfortable.
Here are some easy strategies that will combat the winter chill and help you save energy.
Keep filters clean
The furnace filter is a small part of your heating system but an important one. A clogged filter can inhibit airflow. It causes your furnace to work harder and use more energy. During heating season, check your filter monthly, and clean or replace it when it is dirty.
Check your vents
Properly opening and closing high and low vent returns will help your furnace to operate efficiently. If your home has these vents, you will see low vents on the wall near the floor. Straight up from the low vents toward the ceiling will be the high vents.
Remember that hot air rises and cold air falls. In winter, you want the cold air to be drawn through the return registers so the furnace can heat it. You can achieve this by opening lower vents and closing top vents.
Cover windows at night
About 30% of a home's heating energy is lost through windows, according to the U.S. Department of Energy. Insulated blinds, shades and curtains are an effective way to help keep your home warm in winter. They have a vapor barrier on the warm side to prevent moisture in the room from passing through the window treatment and condensing on the cold window.
An easy way to save energy is to open window coverings during the day to take advantage of natural light and heat from the sun, and then close them at night to help keep warm air inside.
Seal air leaks
Air sealing around windows and doors is an effective way to keep heated air inside your home this winter. These strategies can help:
- Window film is an inexpensive way to help reduce drafts and condensation in winter. It is easy to apply and can even be used over mini blinds.
- Caulk to seal air leaks around windows. Caulking compounds come in a variety of strengths and prices. Most are available in disposable cartridges that fit in a caulking gun. Additionally, some caulk comes in squeeze tubes, ropes or aerosol cans. Caulk should be applied during dry weather when the temperature is at least 45 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Weatherstripping works well to seal air leaks around movable components like doors. It is available in many different materials, so it’s important to read the packaging and choose the right type for your project. Proper application is key. Be sure your weatherstripping meets tightly in the corners. Apply one continuous strip along each side. Weatherstrip the entire door jamb.
If you want to take air sealing a step further, a good place to start in our climate is the attic. Warm air rises, so it’s important to make sure that the air you paid to heat does not escape through leaks in the attic. Air sealing and insulation go hand in hand. Air sealing should be done first to stop warm air from rising into the attic. Consider hiring a professional to install a full air sealing package.
Think twice about space heaters
Some people believe that turning down your thermostat and using an electric space heater will save money. A space heater can be one of the most expensive ways to heat your home. At today's prices, electric heat costs at least eight times as much per BTU as natural gas. Running a typical 1,500-watt electric space heater four hours each day for a month would cost $25.
Ask the experts
MGE’s energy experts are available to answer your questions and provide tips on staying comfortable and saving energy this winter and throughout the year. Call them between 8 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday at (608) 252-7117 or email AskExperts@mge.com