GIMME SHELTER- It's cold in here: How can I keep my house warm?

Mandy Burbage
Project Manager, Charlottesville Community Design Center


Q: I keep turning my thermostat up, but my house is still cold! I'm worried that I'm going to have to pay a small fortune for this month's heating bill. What can I do to ensure that I'm heating my house as efficiently and inexpensively as possible?

A: It sounds like your heat problem is related to sealing and insulation. Start by checking your windows, and make sure they're prepared for the winter season if you haven't already done so. If you have storm windows, put them on to keep the cold air out. If you don't have storm windows and want to get a quick inexpensive fix, you can buy and apply film to windows– it serves a similar function.  

The problematic spot may not be as obvious as windows, however. Air ducts and air filters both can have a huge impact on the efficiency of a heating system. A leaky air duct is the equivalent of an open window, but they can sometimes be more difficult for a homeowner to check, so calling in a professional might be the best bet. Checking and cleaning or changing your air filters every three months is essential to ensure that your furnace is operating at optimum level.  

Check your windows and other problem areas such as leaky air ducts before investing in other insulation and sealing remedies.

One effective way to lower heating costs is to switch from a basic to a programmable thermostat. With a programmable thermostat, you can direct your heating system to be at a certain temperature when you're home and a more energy-conservative temperature when you aren't. According to Energy Star, families with programmable thermostats save about $150 every year in heating and cooling expenses. 

At the recently built 10th and Page project, the new houses were all outfitted with Energy Star-qualified equipment. Every house's energy costs have been reduced by approximately 30-50 percent annually.  

Long-term fixes for houses with perpetually inefficient heating systems include getting a professional home sealing process done and investing in energy-efficient equipment. It is recommended by Energy Star that you seal your house before adding insulation. Investing in better equipment such as energy-efficient windows, furnaces, boilers, and heat pumps can save money in the long run, keep you warm in the winter and cool in the summer, and make your house a more energy-efficient and environmentally friendly place. 

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