Working the thermostat is an important first step to maximizing energy efficiency, but there are also a number of other things you can do to cut down on home heating and cooling costs without sacrificing too much comfort.
First, make changing temperatures easier by investing in a programmable thermostat. This technology allows users to schedule heating levels to automatically rise when they wake up or come home at the end of the day. Most of the devices also let users to store and repeat daily settings and can be changed manually when necessary [source: Department of Energy].
Programmable thermostats are less helpful – and may actually prove more costly – for people who rely on heat pumps to warm their homes. In heating mode, the pumps are most efficient when running at a constant, moderate level and scheduling various temperature changes can cancel out any potential savings [source: Department of Energy].
Next, make sure your heating and cooling systems are running efficiently to ensure that you're not wasting energy on them. That means cleaning filters and replacing them regularly, removing dirt and addressing corrosion on HVAC units. It also means checking that vents and radiators are not obstructed and that air ducts and heating pipes are properly sealed [source: Department of Energy].
Author's Note: Should you turn your heat down when you're not home?
When you reside below ground, as I did until recently in the "English basement" apartment of an urban row house, it can be difficult to keep the joint warm. The task is made even more challenging when large swaths of the nation are enveloped in the unforgiving blanket of frigidity known by meteorologists and Arctic residents as a "polar vortex." By challenging, I mean it required me to run heating units on full blast all day, even when I wasn't at home. I'm happy to report that I'm now firmly four floors above ground.
- CBS News. "Will colder temperatures help you lose weight?" CBSNews.com. Jan. 23, 2014. (Feb. 23, 2014) http://www.cbsnews.com/news/weight-loss-will-colder-temperatures-help-you-reach-your-goal/
- Martin, Brett. "7 Things to Do Before You Leave for Vacation." Popular Mechanics. (Feb. 23, 2014) http://www.popularmechanics.com/home/improvement/security/7-things-to-do-before-you-leave-for-vacation#slide-1
- Sierra Club. "Turn the Heat Down, or Leave It on When Gone? What's Best, Mr. Green Santa?" Dec. 27, 2010. (Feb. 23, 2014) http://sierraclub.typepad.com/mrgreen/2010/12/turn-the-heat-down-or-leave-it-on-when-gone-whats-best.html
- U.S. Department of Energy. "Energy Saver 101." Dec. 16, 2013. (Feb. 24, 2014) http://energy.gov/articles/energy-saver-101-infographic-home-heating
- U.S. Department of Energy. "Thermostats." Nov. 26, 2013. (Feb. 24, 2014) http://energy.gov/energysaver/articles/thermostats