smart meter display via flickr

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In recent years smart meters have been mass installed in homes across many countries with the hope data they compile will help homeowners self regulate utility usage and save money.

How does this work? The collected information is supposed to show when certain utilities are being used more and indicate ideal times to cut back usage.  For example, day time hours are when prices are higher; nighttime is when they are lower.

Benefits of Smart Meters

And if a homeowner can easily see:

1. Where consumption peaks
2. Where it falls throughout the day,
3. How it corresponds to peak pricing hours

… he has the option of trying to adjust his usage accordingly. This in turn lowers the environmental impact of power plants because reduced demand means less pollution.

One of the problems, however, is that during certain times like the cold season turning heat down to a minimum just isn’t realistic. So while smart meters have good intentions, they aren’t always practical for the moment. That is – unless a series of steps are taken to make sure a home is more structurally sound so heating is more efficient.

Better efficiently allows a home to retain heat longer while keeping the thermostat lower and gives homeowners a chance to reap the benefits smart meters are trying to provide.

There are a number of ways to accomplish this, some of which include the following:

* Seal drafts

Sealing drafts is by far the most important job of any homeowner if they want to save on home heating during the winter. That’s because drafts are where the majority of heat is lost. In most cases, this occurs around windows and doors.

They can be found by holding a lit candle around those areas.  If the flame flickers chances are you’ve found a draft.

The easiest way to seal them is by caulking around the frames from the exterior though sometimes interior caulking will be necessary. Caulking is an easy task and doesn’t require hiring a professional.

Editor’s Note: To read more about using caulk to Weatherize, see these articles >> How to Winterize a Home and Getting Weatherized with Caulk.

Keep in mind there may be other areas where drafts can be found such as the attic entrance and at the garage door.  Since every home has different characteristics it will be up to the homeowner to decide where to look.

* Bleed Radiators

There are various ways for heat to reach its destination in a home, one being from radiators.  Although radiator coils emit heat which is produced by circulating water through a system of pipes, air sometimes trapped in the coils causes a radiator not to work as efficiently.

For this reason bleeding radiators once a year, preferably before they are put into daily use, improves their effectiveness. Keep in mind bleeding isn’t complicated. The hardest part, finding the cap hiding the opening to bleed from.

Meanwhile, after they are bled and heat is flowing, it’s important to keep the area around the radiator clear from clutter and furniture. Anything standing in a radiator’s way will prevent the heat from distributing evenly throughout a room.

(Note: Similar principles apply if your home is heated with forced air. Make sure that heating registers are not covered or otherwise clogged with debris.)

* Utilize Sunlight

During the winter months when the sun is shining down and not blocked by clouds it can be a hot commodity, even if it’s just for those few hours during the peak pricing time for electricity.

If you are home during the day when those rays are poking through the sky, use them wisely by opening the blinds and curtains letting them enter the living space where they can warm wherever they reach.

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Furthermore, in order to maximize this opportunity make sure windows are clean as dirt particles on glass can filter out precious sunlight.

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utility employee changing an energy meter via Flickr

The Bottom Line

Data compiled by smart meters can be very useful and aid both homeowners and utility companies. Still when it comes to the winter and home heating a number of additional steps need to be taken. This helps convert the numbers into real savings when the arctic air moves in.

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Jakob Barry is a home improvement journalist for Networx.com. He blogs for pros across the U.S.

Photo Credits:

  • http://www.flickr.com/photos/[email protected]/4357490117/sizes/z/in/photostream/
  • http://www.flickr.com/photos/[email protected]/5148894831/sizes/z/in/photostream/
  • http://www.flickr.com/photos/davidberkowitz/5343785495/sizes/z/in/photostream/