As you can probably tell, it's been a little chilly here lately. Actually, it's been really chilly, but it's going to be quite a bit warmer for the next couple days. There are some advantages to living in a place where the temperature can change by 20+ degrees overnight. (~35 degrees if you're in fahrenheit)
There are some distinct financial advantages to living in a frigid winter climate. Do you honestly think anyone wants to pop over to the grocery store because they have a craving for something? Or do you think you're going to go to the mall "just to look around"? Not a chance. Walking to the grocery store on Sunday(2km round trip) was an exercise in bundling. My car was buried under half a meter of snow this past week, and I haven't yet had the energy to dig a path to it and dig it out. Saves on fuel consumption to say the least.
However, it's not always a good thing. This kind of cold is BRUTAL on the energy bills. If your house isn't buttoned up tight, heat seeps out at every crack. My house was built during a building boom, and lets just say the attention to detail isn't really there. I've been making changes and adjustments as I find problems, but there is a long way to go.
The first thing I did when I moved in was change the old mercury tube thermostat (which was hanging off the wall when I moved in, yay foreclosures!) to a programmable one. I'm pretty sure that thing is getting pretty close to paying for itself by now, if it hasn't already. I can assure you that in the mornings I am too groggy and disoriented to remember to turn down the heat before I leave the house, and I'm usually running to catch my bus! It's programmed to turn the heat right down during the day while I'm gone, turn it back up when I get home from work, turn it down again as I'm heading to bed, and then turn it back up when I'm getting up in the morning. Why use less gas than I have to?
Cost: $50 Time: 45 minutes
The next thing I tried to do was insulate my hot water pipes, which are run using lots of small plastic tubing rather than copper or (thankfully) lead. I shook my head when I saw the builders had bundled all of the hot and cold water lines together. You're going to seperate the water, heat up the hot water side, then bundle it all back together with the cold water lines so they can lose heat faster? Brilliant. *facepalm* I've been a little less successful in this one because they had intertangled the piping so badly that I need to take apart all of the waterlines and untangle them to fix this. That means turning off the water to the house. It will have to wait a bit. The sections I did manage to untangle I wrapped in reflective insulation to prevent heat loss. The stuff looks like bubblewrap covered in tinfoil because, well, that's essentially what it is. If you can get to your hot water pipes, definitely wrap them. The less heat you lose this way, they less hot water you'll need to use because it won't cool down as much. That and the water will stay warmer longer.
Cost: $30 Time: Ongoing, but if I had copper pipes about an hour.
I first looked at the house in October while it was still nice out, then I moved in the week before we got hit with the first real cold snap of the year. My kitchen was an ice box! I had no idea why, I was seriously thinking they had forgotten to insulate a wall. It was drafty too. I figured out at least part of the problem this past summer, I could see daylight through the back door! I hadn't noticed it during the winter because it was always dark when I was home! The sun comes up around 8:45 and goes down around 4:15 during December; I was never home during daylight hours during the week, and was quite busy on weekends. Turns out they didn't square the door properly, and the weatherstripping was essentially useless. I grabbed another roll, took the existing stuff off, and positioned it so that it would block the air flow. Not a permanent fix, because I need to fix the door somehow, but it works. Note, the directions tell you to clean your door jam with acetone. If you have conventional nail polish remover, that's essentially the same stuff. Save yourself a couple bucks and use it.
Cost: $13 Time: 45 minutes
The other ice box in my house has been my basement. The only time I had a basement growing up my parents built a commercial kitchen in it. It's kind of hard to be cold standing beside a large pizza oven! So when I noticed my basement was cold, I kind of assumed it was partly due to the lack of heat. It was a bit warmer beside the furnace and hot water heater, but that was about it. There was one window downstairs that I had been wanting to storm seal, but all of the moving boxes had been in the way. I finally got over near the window recently and noticed a definite draft. I had run out of the clear plastic sheeting, so I decided to make a temporary cover out of a garbage bag and packing tape. Boy am I glad I did! The garbage bag was fluttering when I taped up the top, and by the time I had the window sealed it was puffed out like a balloon! No wonder it was so cold downstairs! I'd be willing to bet my clothes will dry faster on the rack now that the draft has stopped. I've noticed a difference in the temperature already.
Cost: $10 (properly) or $1(mine) Time: 10 minutes
I have the materials to insulate my light switch plates and electrical outlets. It's a quick job, I just need to actually get around to doing it! Pre-punched insulation sheets come in bags of 10 (varied sizing), and all you need is a screw driver. This is seriously the easiest one on the list, and it hasn't been done out of sheer laziness. *slaps hand*
Cost: $5/bag Time: 2 minutes/outlet
This summer I'm planning to do some caulking around the windows and floor boards as well. I'm hoping that will help some of the other drafts. What have you done to your homes to help with your utility bills? Any tips?