Managing Your Heating and Cooling Needs on a Tight Budget

The solutions presented here will most benefit households where someone is at home throughout the daytime hours. However, purposeful thought and action before leaving for work and after arriving home will same many dollars over the heating and cooling seasons. If budget is a concern and immediate results are needed to save money, read on.

Keep in mind that heat and cold are transferred by the movement of air. If you stop the air movement, or minimize it, you also minimize the temperature exchange. That is what makes insulation work. The microfibers in insulation reduce air movement to near zero. When your doors and windows have leaking seals, air movement occurs, thus producing temperature exchanges. While there is constant air movement in every room of your house or apartment, keeping the temperature exchange under your control can be accomplished with a few simple steps, even if you’re on a very tight budget.

If a door threshold is worn or missing, roll a towel or thin throw rug into a tight “snake” and lay it against the door. Use a heavy towel or two under it to fill any cracks or gaps. Don’t worry, you can move it quickly if company shows up unexpectedly. Thin foam self-adhesive weather stripping can be added to the door casing for less than five dollars. (You’ll save at least that much over the heating or cooling season.)

Often, old windows have many seal problems, or don’t fully close, leaving gaps and air leaks. Lay rolled towels against the leaky areas before closing the curtains or blinds in the winter evenings. In the summer, close those blinds before going to work to keep out the hot sun. Remember that air in any room is in constant motion. Air currents passing over a window frame will promote temperature changes. Any air passing over the glass in a window will also cause hot or cold to be transferred. Think of how drafty it is to sit next to your sliding glass door in the the winter. Management of your curtains and blinds in combination with being aware of outside weather conditions (sunny or cloudy, windy or freezing) will bring you plenty of savings when the gas and electric bill comes due.

Managing comfort levels in multi-level homes is a bit more complicated, but not by much. When we open window blinds to collect heat in the winter, the top levels of a house often become overheated while the lower levels remain chilly, especially with a central heating system and one thermostat. If your furnace thermostat has a “continuous fan” switch, use it during the heat collection hours to recirculate and redistribute the heat more evenly. Remember also that in the winter, heat registers in the lower sections of the house need to be open more than in in the upper rooms because heat rises. Conversely, in the summer cooling season, open the register more in the upper rooms of the house while closing the lower level registers because colder air sinks.

Run ceiling fans on low or medium to help redistribute air where needed in both seasons. If you don’t have ceiling fans, a 20 inch box fan can move a lot of air and can be positioned to blow any direction for air redistribution. Pay special attention to the room with the thermostat. Lots of sun in that room (or a leaky door seal in the winter) will alter it’s controls before other rooms have reached a comfortable temperature level. Learn to balance the heat registers in your home to improve comfort throughout.

It costs a lot of money to heat and cool a home or apartment. Your awareness and resulting actions will determine your personal savings and comfort level.

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