Closing doors in unused rooms during winter is a common practice that many homeowners follow in order to conserve energy and reduce heating costs. However, there are pros and cons to this approach that are worth considering before making a decision.
The main benefit of closing doors
The primary reason people close doors in unused rooms in winter is to prevent heated air from escaping into those rooms. Heat naturally flows from warmer areas to cooler areas. If you leave doors open, the warm air from the heated parts of your home will flow through doorways into unoccupied, unheated rooms. This means you are wasting energy and money heating empty rooms.
How much money could you save?
Studies by energy agencies have found that closing doors and vents in unused rooms can reduce overall heat loss by around 10-12%. For the average home, this could equal savings of 5-10% on heating bills over a winter.
So for example, if your average winter heating bill is $2000, you might save $100-200 by diligently keeping doors to unused rooms closed. The more unused rooms you have, and the larger your home, the more potential savings.
Other benefits beyond cost savings
In addition to saving money, keeping doors closed can also:
– Allow you to more comfortably heat the rooms you are using without overheating the rest of the house. You can keep the temperature in living spaces at a comfortable 70°F without wasting heat in unused rooms.
– Prevent dampness or mold growth in unused rooms by not heating them. Mold thrives in slightly warm but unventilated areas in winter.
– Reduce dust buildup by not circulating air into unused rooms.
So closing doors provides benefits beyond just saving money on energy bills.
What are the downsides of closing doors?
However, there are also some disadvantages or caveats to consider when closing off rooms:
It could restrict airflow throughout the house
Completely closing doors to rooms restricts air circulation, which could lead to:
– Poor indoor air quality and stuffiness in the rooms you are using.
– Condensation forming on windows which could lead to mold.
– Odors building up and stagnant air in unused rooms.
It may not save as much as expected
Studies find you’ll only save about 10% on heating bills at most by closing doors. The savings are usually modest for the amount of diligence required to actively manage room doors. And if you have a newer, energy efficient home, the savings may be negligible.
Cold rooms could lead to frozen pipes
If rooms become extremely cold by keeping doors closed, pipes running through exterior walls could freeze. This could lead to catastrophic bursting and water damage.
It’s inconvenient to manage doors
Having to constantly open and close doors as you move between rooms can be annoying. You could easily forget and leave doors open. Pets or kids may unintentionally leave doors ajar too.
Cold rooms could allow more critters to enter
Mice, rats, spiders, and other pests are looking for warm places to nest in winter. By allowing unused rooms to become very cold, it could drive more critters to find their way inside your inhabited areas.
Tips for effectively closing doors
If you do want to close doors to conserve energy, here are some tips:
Use your judgement on a room-by-room basis
Rather than keeping every door firmly shut, decide which rooms really don’t need heat. Prioritize closing doors to rooms on the north side of your home or those exposed to wind and cold.
Crack doors open slightly rather than shut fully
Leave doors open an inch or two rather than fully closed. This allows some air circulation while still conserving heat.
Open doors fully when possible
During days when you are home and actively using more of the house, open doors to allow heat to evenly distribute.
Use automatic door closers
Install hydraulic door closers that gently shut doors behind you. This takes the hassle out of remembering to close doors.
Insulate interior doors
Add weather stripping or removable insulation seals to interior doors for unused rooms. This reduces air leaks when closed.
Monitor room temperatures
Check rooms periodically to ensure temperatures do not drop dangerously low. Ideally keep unused rooms above 50°F.
Consider indoor air quality
Install humidifiers or air circulation systems if closing doors causes humidity or air quality issues.
How much money could you save closing doors?
To provide an estimate of potential savings, here is a table showing projected savings on heating bills by closing doors in 1, 2 or 3 unused rooms, assuming an average 2000 sq ft house:
|Number of Unused Rooms
|Estimated Annual Heating Costs
|With Doors Closed
|Estimated Annual Savings
|0 rooms (doors open)
As you can see, the more unused rooms with closed doors, the more potential savings. However, even closing 3 rooms would only reduce costs by 15% in this example house. Your actual savings may be higher or lower depending on heating costs and the size and layout of your home.
Closing doors in unused rooms can result in modest energy and cost savings during winter, especially in larger homes. However, the inconvenience and potential drawbacks like air quality and moisture issues should be considered.
Try closing doors to rooms on the north side of your home or those exposed to cold and wind. But use judgement and don’t let rooms get dangerously cold. Keep interior doors ajar rather than fully closed if possible. And take steps to monitor humidity and pests when isolating rooms.
Utilized smartly, closing doors can be one part of an overall energy efficiency strategy. But the savings may not be worth the diligence required for some homeowners. Consider your individual heating costs, home layout, and comfort before deciding if strictly closing doors is worthwhile in your situation.