Buying a home is exciting, but doing so in the winter may leave you scratching your head about why certain areas of your home are colder than others, or even why your first utility bill is much higher than expected. Homes that have been on the market since the warmer months may not have been winterized or prepped for the colder months. Many first time home buyers—and even some veteran homeowners—aren’t aware of some easy-to-do home maintenance items that will help heat their homes more efficiently. Below is a list of the easiest things you can do to become more energy efficient, and lower your heating bills during these frigid months.

  1. Use a programmable thermostat
    These thermostats are ideal for homeowners who have a set schedule of when they will be away from the home. Programmable thermostats allow you to set different temperatures for hours that you are home, away or even asleep.
    Setting the heating temperature back/up by 6-8 degrees when you are away, allows the HVAC system to not work as hard to maintain a specific temperature when noone is home. PLEASE NOTE: Never turn off the thermostat entirely in away mode – in winter turning the heat off could result in freezing of pipes.
  2. Seal Ducts to improve performance
    While most ductwork is concealed behind walls, ceilings and floors, other areas like attics and basements are left exposed. Start by performing a visual inspection of your duct work to see if there are any air leaks. If leaks are discovered, use a metal (foil) tape to seal them. Finally, in unconditioned areas like the attic and crawl spaces, thoroughly and properly installed insulation can significantly reduce heating costs and improve comfort of your home.
  3. Reverse your ceiling fans.
    On the side of almost all ceiling fans you will see a little switch; when pushed in one direction the blades will push air down, and when the switch is in the opposite position air will be pulled up. By using this blade reversing function in the winter, when your heater is running, the blades will move warm air near the ceiling down to the floor. This tip has the greatest effect in rooms or areas which have vaulted or very high ceilings.
  4. Check the dampers on your furnace
    Homes with multiple floors typically use dampers to control the flow of air to different areas of the home. In the winter, dampers to the upper floors should be between 50-75% closed, while lower levels are left 100% open. Hot air rises, so ensuring the majority of the heat goes to the lower levels will allow the home to heat evenly, and keep your furnace from working harder than it has to.
  5. Latch windows: even when windows are fully closed, the weather stripping may not be compressed. Latching double hung or casement windows can improve the air seal at the window, saving costs and reducing drafts.

These DIY home maintenance tips greatly reduce your energy use and can lower your energy bills by as much as 15 percent; give them a try and watch those savings role in!