9 Easy Ways to Lower Your Heating Bill This Winter

iStock
iStock

Unless you live in a scorching climate, heating your home is a necessary and unavoidable expense every winter. Rather than just accepting this as an annual hit to your wallet, try out some of these helpful tips to raise the heat and lower your bills.

1. FILL THOSE GAPS

You’ve spent money heating your house, so the last thing you want to do is to let that heat seep out. Warmed air leaking out around poorly sealed window frames, power sockets, recessed light fittings, and other gaps is a big source of heat loss in homes. Also, when the wind blows, you can feel drafts from those gaps. Use caulk, foam strips or expanding foam to seal up unwanted holes in your home. Ventilation is important, but you can control it.

2. INSULATE, INSULATE, INSULATE

If your house is modern and well constructed, its walls, floors, ceilings, and roof will already contain some insulation material. Commonly, builders use affordable fiberglass or expanded polystyrene (EPS) to insulate homes. But many other types are available—from sheep’s wool to thin-but-effective NASA-style metallic “multifoil.” Add extra insulation to your home cheaply by layering up mineral wool in your attic. Thick curtains help to insulate glass at windows. If your windows are single-glazed, consider sticking transparent polythene film to your internal window frames to act as super-low-budget “double-glazing.”

3. GET, SET, AND FORGET YOUR THERMOSTATS

Although some people seem to struggle with the concept, thermostats are self-regulating devices that keep spaces at a constant temperature. If you have room thermostats, decide what temperature you want for each room, set them, and then leave them alone. They have one job, so let them do it. Fiddling with them won't do much besides cost you money. 

Although they’re not cheap, you can now buy ultra-efficient learning thermostats—such as the Nest Thermostat—that automatically track your patterns of temperature preference and auto-adjust accordingly.

4. TURN DOWN YOUR WATER HEATER

Water has a very high specific heat capacity. It doesn’t like to warm up, so you have to input a lot of energy to force it to. On the upside, it also takes a long time to cool down, so it’s an efficient energy storage medium. To reduce the amount of energy used in heating up all that stubborn water, turn down your water heater a little. Many water heaters are factory-set to a 140°F (60°C) default, and reducing the temperature by as little as 10°F (5.5°C) will save you money—up to five percent of your water-heating costs.

5. LOWER YOUR ‘E’

Thermal energy is infrared radiation. With an infrared camera, cold spots in a house, like windows, appear dark or even black. The term emissivity is used to describe the amount of infrared radiation that objects radiate. Nowadays, you can fit low emissivity (low-e) glazing in your home. A special coating on the glass makes it a better reflector of thermal energy, reflecting much more heat back into the room than standard glass by allowing less to radiate away outside. As a cheap alternative to replacement, stick low-e window film to your standard glass to improve its thermal performance.

6. CATCH THE SUN BEFORE IT’S GONE

Even if you don’t have solar panels, you can still take advantage of the sun’s energy to heat your home in the winter. Open your south-facing curtains at sunrise to make best use of “passive solar gain.” This works particularly well if your home has stone or concrete floors, as they have a large thermal mass, meaning they soak up a lot of heat and release it slowly. Remember to close your curtains as soon as the sun dips to trap all that free heat.

7. FORCE WARM AIR DOWNWARDS

Denser, cooler air stays closer to the ground, and warmer air rises. All that warm air is not much use to you up at the ceiling, so force it downwards with a low-speed fan. Intuitively, you might set the fan to blow the warm air directly downwards, but you may feel this as a draft against your skin. Instead, try reversing the fan's setting so it sends the warm air upwards, as this will distribute it back down the walls to mix with the rest of the air in the room, gradually raising the ambient temperature.

8. USE WASTE HEAT

Some equipment in your home generates a lot of “waste heat” during normal operation. Think about your computer. During processing, its CPU belts out waste heat that’s conducted to a heat sink and then dispersed with the aid of cooling fins and a fan. Computers—especially powerful gaming ones—are like convection heaters. Position your workstation where you can best use that thermal energy to help warm your room, for a free (though not insanely effective) Grand Theft Auto-assisted heating system.

9. WORK YOUR BODY

Working out raises your body temperature by burning calories of heat faster. Your body converts food energy into the “energy currency” adenosine triphosphate (ATP), which, among other things, allows you to maintain a normal body temperature of 98.6°F (37°C). These energy-producing chemical reactions in your body generate heat, and they do more reacting when you exercise, temporarily raising your body temperature above normal.

Finally, you can always take grandma’s intuitive thermodynamics advice for lowering the thermal conductivity of your own sartorial insulating layer—otherwise known as putting another sweater on.

The World's 10 Most Expensive Cities

An apartment complex in Hong Kong
An apartment complex in Hong Kong
iStock.com/Nikada

If you think San Francisco is pricey, you should see some of the other metropolises that appear in a new ranking of the 10 most expensive cities in the world. As The Real Deal reports, Singapore, Paris, and Hong Kong have been jointly named as the three cities with the highest cost of living in a new analysis by The Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU).

It was the first time in the history of the Intelligence Unit’s Worldwide Cost of Living report that three cities have tied for first place. Billing itself as a global business intelligence group, the EIU takes the prices of more than 400 items into consideration for its annual list, including food, clothing, household supplies, private school fees, and recreation.

Singapore's appearance on the list is no surprise, considering that it has been crowned the world’s most expensive city for the past five years in a row, and Paris has consistently made the top 10 since 2003. Hong Kong, meanwhile, rose three places in the newest ranking, while Osaka, Japan rose six places.

New York City and Los Angeles also made the top 10 list this year, tying with other cities for fourth and fifth place, respectively. This is partly due to exchange rates.

“A stronger U.S. dollar last year has meant that cities in the U.S. generally became more expensive globally, especially relative to last year’s ranking,” the report notes. “New York has moved up six places in the ranking this year, while Los Angeles has moved up four spots.”

Check out the 10 most expensive cities below, and visit the EIU’s website to download a full copy of the report.

  1. Singapore; Hong Kong; and Paris, france (tied)

  1. Zurich, Switzerland

  1. Geneva, Switzerland; and Osaka, Japan (tied)

  1. Seoul, South Korea; Copenhagen, Denmark; and New York City (tied)

  1. Tel Aviv, Israel and Los Angeles (tied)

5 Fast Facts About the Spring Equinox

iStock.com/AHPhotoswpg
iStock.com/AHPhotoswpg

The northern hemisphere has officially survived a long winter of Arctic temperatures, bomb cyclones, and ice tsunamis. Spring starts today, March 20, which means warmer weather and longer days are around the corner. To celebrate the spring equinox, hear are some facts about the event.

1. The spring equinox arrives at 5:58 p.m.

The first day of spring is today, but the spring equinox will only be here for a brief time. At 5:58 p.m. Eastern Time, the Sun will be perfectly in line with the equator, which results in both the northern and southern hemispheres receiving equal amounts of sunlight throughout the day. After the vernal equinox has passed, days will start to become shorter for the Southern Hemisphere and longer up north.

2. The Equinox isn't the only time you can balance an egg.

You may have heard the myth that you can balance on egg on its end during the vernal equinox, and you may have even tried the experiment in school. The idea is that the extra gravitational pull from the Sun when it's over the equator helps the egg stand up straight. While it is possible to balance an egg, the trick has nothing to do with the equinox: You can make an egg stand on its end by setting it on a rough surface any day of the year.

3. Not every place gets equal night and day.

The equal night and day split between the northern and southern hemispheres isn't distributed evenly across all parts of the world. Though every region gets approximately 12 hours of sunlight the day of the vernal equinox, some places get a little more (the day is 12 hours and 15 minute in Fairbanks, Alaska), and some get less (it's 12 hours and 6 minutes in Miami).

4. The name means Equal Night.

The word equinox literally translates to equal ("equi") and night ("nox") in Latin. The term vernal means "new and fresh," and comes from the Latin word vernus for "of spring."

5. The 2019 spring equinox coincides with a supermoon.

On March 20, the day the Sun lines up with equator, the Moon will reach the closest point to Earth in its orbit. The Moon will also be full, making it the third supermoon of 2019. A full moon last coincided with the first day of spring on March 20, 1981, and it the two events won't occur within 24 hours of each other again until 2030.

SECTIONS

arrow
LIVE SMARTER