Despite their rugged appearance, many upstate NY residents are not used to winters this cold. Perhaps they are urban transplants, or they have not been around long enough to realize that winters like this happen. If you were born within the last thirty-five years, you may have been thrown off by the recent winters marking the end of a warm spell that started in the 1980’s. Do these increasingly low temperatures mean that global climate change is a hoax, as some might suggest? Nah – global climate change can produce all sorts of extreme weather conditions on either end of the thermometer. All objectivity aside, for those of us living here, it just seams cold, and there is a lot of snow out there. Sure, it’s great snowshoeing weather, but all these heating bills are getting disconcerting.
High heating bills can be particularly surprising to relocators from urban areas. They may not realize that the advantage of lower rents upstate can be completely offset by high heating bills. After all, keeping a city apartment warm is a very different process from heating a living space in the country. Urban apartment buildings are generally heated with huge furnaces or boilers capable of putting out more heat than is technically needed. It’s a common, though wasteful, practice for residents in urban areas to regulate the temperature inside their apartments by opening a window or two to cool things down. Houses and apartments in rural areas, on the other hand, are often equipped with much smaller furnaces or boilers. They do not benefit from the complimentary insulation generated by being nestled in between other apartments. These smaller furnaces and boilers need to work much harder, and as a result, they lose efficiency. This means higher heating bills.
So what can be done about it? Here is a list of three frequently overlooked trouble spots that cause homes to lose heat efficiency in the winter, and a few simple fixes to lower those pesky heating bills:
If it’s not reading correctly, then you may be heating up your house to a higher temperature than you think. Purchase a thermometer at the local Mom & Pop hardware store (make sure it’s reading the same as the other thermometers in the store before you take it home). Then place it near the thermostat. The thermometer on some thermostats can be calibrated. If this is the case, then adjust it to match the new thermometer. If it can not be calibrated, not to worry, just use the new thermometer to determine the temperature in the house.
Turn the thermostat down. It can be healthy, and even beneficial for sleeping, to live in temperatures as low as sixty degrees Fahrenheit. Admittedly, this takes some getting used to. At these lower temperatures, it is necessary to wear multiple layers of clothing. Long underwear and wool socks are recommended.
From the inside of the house, feel around the window moldings for cool air. You can use a paintable caulk around the moldings to reduce drafts.
Keep blinds and curtains closed during the night to hold heat in. During the day, open the blinds and curtains on windows that receive direct sunlight. In this way, you will be using your windows as passive solar heating.
Make sure that all windows are fully closed and locked. When you lock the window, it creates a better seal against cold air. Add a rolled up terry cloth towel here to keep out drafts.
Feel below your door for cool air – this is usually where the worst drafts come through. One or two inexpensive polyester or acrylic fleece throw blankets would do the trick here. Just roll them up and cover the base of all the doors leading to the outside.
To conclude, a general word to the wise: if the house has more than one heat source, then you might want to try using them together rather than relying on one alone. Heaters are more efficient when operating on a medium setting, and a system of multiple heaters on a medium or low setting is much more efficient than using one heat source turned to the max.
Develop these simple habits, and you may see a significant decrease in your heating bills during this last push to spring. And with lower heating bills, you can spend less time worrying and more time playing out in the snow!