Summer has flown away for another year, and the cold winter months bring the challenge of keeping your home warm and cozy. While you may have just figured out how to reduce your summer electric bill to save money, for many of us, the colder weather also means a spike in energy costs.
But what can you do to keep your winter energy bill under control, beyond the classic move of “turn down the thermostat and put on a sweater”? Here are some tips to help reduce your energy bill this winter, and maybe do the environment a favor at the same time.
Invest in Energy Efficiency
Before we dig into the good stuff, here’s a reminder: turning down your thermostat by just two degrees really can save you almost $200 a year. Your grandmother was right — put on a sweater!
But if you just can’t turn the thermostat down any further, it may be worth investing time and money in some energy-efficient gear for your home. A few examples:
- Install a low-flow showerhead to reduce water heating costs.
- Replace your creaky old fridge or washer/dryer with Energy Star certified appliances.
- Dispose of your old light bulbs in favor of more energy-efficient CFL bulbs.
- Consider installing a timer on your water heater. Program it to turn off at night and heat your water first thing in the morning. If your schedule doesn’t demand hot water at three in the morning, there’s no reason to be paying for it.
- Buy a programmable thermostat. A properly programmed thermostat can save you up to $400 a year!
If upgrading your appliances isn’t in the budget, consider giving your existing appliances a tune-up. A natural gas furnace should get serviced every couple of years, while you should have your oil furnace checked once a year. Clean your furnace filter every couple of months to keep the unit running efficiently.
Tune Up Your Home
Updating to more energy-efficient housewares is a long-term strategy. But there are some short-term solutions you can implement that might make less of a dent on your winter energy bill.
- Make use of the environment. Open the drapes on your south-facing windows to let heat in during the day. Close the drapes elsewhere (and at night). Use ceiling fans to control airflow — switching your fan to run counterclockwise will push warm air down and help keep the house warmer without having to crank up the thermostat.
- Go big on laundry day. An already-warm dryer takes less energy to heat, so do as much of your laundry as possible at one time. Remember to keep that lint trap clean, too — it’s not just a fire hazard when full, it cuts down on dryer efficiency.
- Weatherproof as much as possible. You don’t have to go all-in on new storm windows (although that will save you a bundle in the long run). Caulk, spray-foam, or weatherstrip any gaps or drafty areas. Buy window kits or window film to seal up those problem windows until spring. Look for drafty areas such as exterior doors, pipework, and dryer vents.
- Unplug your stuff. Your television, computer, stereo, and other appliances all use electricity, even when they’re not on. Install a power strip and turn it all off at night with the flick of a switch. Unless you need to leave the DVR on to catch the season finale of your favorite show. Priorities, right?
Little Things Count
You don’t have to undertake a huge home improvement project to save some bucks on your winter energy bill this season. Even a few small steps or DIY projects can bring your energy consumption down. Buy draft blockers or door snakes for that drafty attic or garage door. Switch to more energy-efficient LED lights for your holiday decoration needs. If you can stand the hold music, you might even consider calling the power company and seeing if they will adjust your bill. Some utility companies will give you an average rate once they have a year’s worth of power consumption data for a household.
What steps are you taking to keep your winter energy bill down this year? I mean, besides that amazing sweater. Let me know in the comments!