Living expenses like mortgage payments, rent payments, property taxes and house insurance can all take a big bite out of a family’s budget. There is little a family can do to lower these costs each month but they can take steps to reduce their monthly fuel bills and make their homes more energy efficient.
Windows can have an important effect on energy bills. Southern windows act as solar collectors that you can control by opening or closing draperies, curtains, blinds or movable insulation. In cold weather, southern windows should be kept unobstructed during the day. Anything blocking the sunlight can be costly, even sheer curtains can prevent the heat of the sun from entering the room. During the summer or on especially hot days in the spring and fall when the air conditioner is not running, covering the windows will help keep out unwanted heat.
Some people find they are uncomfortable in southern rooms at night, even if the temperature is 18c or more because body heat can interact with cold outside air radiating through the window. The problem can be solved with drapes or curtains. With these in place, body heat interacts with the temperature of the fabric rather than the cold outside air. Drapes and curtains help reduce drafts by trapping cold air between the fabric and windows if the drapes and curtains extend to the floor and the sides hang close to the windows.
Windows on the west side can draw large amounts of heat into the house during the afternoon. The heat is desirable in the winter, but can be a big problem in the summer. Landscaping planned with trees planted in strategic spots can help shade the house from the sun’s rays.
The solar energy your house collects must pass through the windows, so they must be kept clean. If the house has large areas of glass that are hard to reach, a long-handled window cleaner with a sponge on one side and a squeegee on the other makes cleaning easier.
If a problem with glare develops, you may be able to reduce it with special slatted blinds that are reflective on one side. The blinds are used to reflect light up to the ceiling or deeper into the room. The benefit of the energy can be obtained with less glare.
Colour also makes a difference in the amount of heat a room holds. Light colours reflect light and heat, and darker colours absorb them. So if you want to keep more heat in your rooms, the walls should be painted a darker colour. If you want a cooler room, the walls should be painted a lighter shade. And, if you have a masonry fireplace wall that is supposed to catch the sunlight and store its heat, avoid painting it a light colour. The ceiling should be painted a light colour so the solar energy will bounce around and finally settle on darker coloured walls, furniture, drapes and carpeting which store the energy. The dark storage materials do not have to be black, but darker shades are better solar absorbers than white, bright or light colours.
If stone, tile or concrete floor sections are bathed in sunshine, they are storing solar energy for later use. Covering these floor areas with carpet converts the sunlight into instant heat and fades the rug. This instant heat is strongest in the middle of the day when it is least needed. If the floor is allowed to absorb the solar energy during the day, it will release the energy in the evening when outside air is colder and the house needs the heat. Avoid covering floors near windows with heavy carpeting. Small scatter rugs are fine. Light-coloured heavy shag rugs create the biggest problem.
During warm weather, you can feel comfortable without air-conditioning if there is a cool breeze. Your home may be designed to provide good airflow with or without a mechanical fan. Having the airflow over the occupants of the house is more important than airing out the entire house. Open the windows in the living room around dinnertime and bedrooms later in the evening. Having all of the windows wide open often reduces the comfort level everywhere.
By becoming actively involved in managing the energy usage in you home, you can realize important savings on your fuel bills and feel more comfortable in your home.