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Keeping Out Winter’s Chill: Sealing Up Air Leaks is Key

Now that Christmas is over and the weather gets even colder, our thoughts drift away from holiday happiness to those high electric bills. In fact, January and February tend to be the months when we receive the most questions about how to lower those bills.

We all live differently. At my house, we keep our thermostat at 70 degrees Fahrenheit in the winter, but that might be too warm for you. (I’m sure we all have that family member who would keep the thermostat set to 78 degrees in the winter if cost was no issue.) Giving a recommendation on where to set your thermostat has always been difficult for me to do. In my own home, we could probably set the thermostat to 72 degrees and not see much difference in the electricity use, but I have taken the time to seal up any air leaks, and that helps keep the cold air out.

I know that many of you have a programmable thermostat and love the money you save by setting the temperature so it’s cooler while you’re sleeping and warmer when you’re awake. This can work, but it can also backfire.

Let’s talk about why this might not be as good of an idea as the manufacturers would like you to believe. To make it a little more fun, let’s take a page from Jeff Foxworthy and his “You Might Be a Redneck If…” routine:

  • If your curtains blow like the window is open when it’s actually closed … you might not want a programmable thermostat.

  • If your dog goes outside to warm up … you might not want a programmable thermostat.

  • If you have had to move the couch because snow is blowing in on you … you might not want a programmable thermostat.

  • If you set the mail on the table, and 10 seconds later it is scattered across the room … you might not want a programmable thermostat.

  • If you can not keep a candle lit because the draft in your house puts it out … you might not want a programmable thermostat.

  • If your home is very drafty, it might be costing you more money to lower the temperature at night. Most furnaces have no problem, even on cold days, keeping your home warm. The furnace might run for 15 minutes, and when the thermostat is satisfied, it will shut off. Usually, a thermostat has a swing of 1 degree, so the furnace can achieve this fairly easily.

When you start lowering the temperature in a drafty house, you might be making your furnace run more often. I have seen people set the thermostat back 5 degrees at night, and within a couple of hours, the temperature has dropped those 5 degrees in the home. When that happens, the furnace maintains as it did before the setback. But in the morning, the furnace must run substantially longer to gain back those 5 degrees, and on some very cold days, it might never regain those degrees.

Sealing your home can not only save you money — it can also make it feel warmer without having the wind blowing around.