Home Efficiency Tips

Baby, It’s Cold Outside

Winter in the Black Hills can be a tad frigid, bringing a potential for higher utility bills. Here are a few ways to trim costs and make your home more energy efficient.

Review these 5 key areas to increase efficiency:

  • Adjust your humidity. A well-humidified house at 68 degrees Fahrenheit is as comfortable as a dry house at 75 degrees. Aquariums and houseplants can add humidity.
  • Insulate exterior walls. Proper insulation keeps your home warm in winter and cool in summer. In fact, you can lose as much as 20 percent of your heating energy through an un-insulated ceiling.
  • If you have an older home or office, consider replacing older windows that allow air drafts. If that’s too expensive, consider initially replacing the draftiest windows first.
  • Take down any awnings over your windows in order to let in winter sunshine.


  • Close any openings, such as fireplace dampers, when you’re not using them.
  • Clean your furnace filter monthly, and follow any other routine maintenance procedures described in the owner’s manual.
  • Before the start of the heating season each year, have a professional check your furnace.
    A professional can keep your furnace operating efficiently, as well as spot and correct any potential safety problems.
  • Keep radiator surfaces clean. Like anything
    else, a radiator works better when it’s cleaner.
    If your radiator is against an exterior wall,
    put aluminum foil behind the radiator to
    reflect heat back into the room.
  • Check the ductwork. Most ducts are in unheated spaces and are a common source of heat loss.


  • You can save as much as 10 percent a year on your heating bill by simply turning your thermostat back 10 to 15 percent for eight hours. You can do this automatically without sacrificing comfort by installing a programmable thermostat. You can set this type of thermostat to automatically turn down or up during certain times of the day.
  • A good rule of thumb is to set the temperature as low as you can and still be comfortable. Each degree you lower your heat in the 60-70 degree range will save 2 percent on your heating costs. The ideal temperature would be around 68 degrees.
  • Adjust your thermostat in the morning and evening. Set it at about 68 degrees Fahrenheit during the day and three to five degrees lower at night or if you’re leaving your home for more than four hours.
  • Locate your thermostat on an inside wall where it won’t be affected by the sun or a heat source


  • Close your drapes on cold days and at night, but open them during the daytime.
    This will help the sun heat your home.
  • Use ventilating fans only as needed. Use kitchen, bath and other ventilating fans sparingly. In just one hour, these fans can blow away a house full of warmed air. Turn them off just as soon as they have done their job.
  • Move furniture away from the air registers, allowing for the free flow of heated air.


  • If you have a fireplace, make sure your damper closes tightly when you’re not using it. Closing the damper could save 8 percent of your home’s heat. An open or poorly fitted damper will allow the warm air from your home to escape out the chimney.
  • If it’s not properly designed, a fireplace can pull cold air into the building along the floor and make the room cold. Many newer fireplaces are made with vents to provide fresh cool air and give off warmed air. Glass panels on the fireplace can be effective.

“Sometimes, it’s not about the house,” says Scott. “We’re about transforming lives, and we do it through the medium of housing.”