Your heating and cooling system is the biggest energy hog in your home, accounting for almost half your total energy costs. The money you spend on utilities rises dramatically in the summer and winter months when temperature control sees the highest use. Winter can be especially problematic, as heating costs are a matter of survival. Fortunately, there are a few simple ways you can reduce your heating costs and save money on your utility bill while still staying toasty in the winter.
There’s a reason the family cat likes to nap in sunbeams — the sun is a fantastic source of free heat. By opening your curtains and blinds during the daytime, you take advantage of the greenhouse effect and allow the sun to naturally heat your home.
Unfortunately, windows can also be a source of heat loss, as they are not as well insulated as your walls. Close your curtains and blinds when the sun goes down to prevent cold chills from cooling your home. Consider purchasing insulated curtains to maximize the energy efficiency of your windows.
Air sealing your home is simple, effective, and relatively inexpensive. Caulking and weatherstripping will usually pay for themselves in energy savings within a year. Use caulk for cracks and openings between stationary objects like door and window frames. You can use weatherstripping around anything that moves, like the door itself or window sashes.
Doors are a major trouble spot for drafts. If you have a drafty door, check the weather stripping and seals around the door frame. Replace any damaged or missing weather stripping and apply new caulk to any broken seals.
Windows, especially in older homes, are a major source of drafts and heat loss. Insulate your windows in winter by sealing the frame with clear plastic cling wrap. Window film is cheap, easy to apply, easy to remove in spring, and can be found at any home improvement store or online. It will only cost a few bucks to insulate every window in your home, but the savings on your heating bill will be big.
Check your attic and basement thoroughly when searching for air leaks, as these floors hide the worst air leaks. Use foam or caulk to seal the small cracks. For larger holes, you may need to install or replace insulation.
Doors and windows are obvious sources of drafts, but there a few more you may not think of. Cold air can leak into your house through electrical outlets, light fixtures, AC units, and gaps in your insulation.
A lit fireplace is a great way to warm up in winter, but it can allow cold air in when not in use. Keep your damper closed whenever you aren’t using your fireplace. If you never use your fireplace, plug and seal the chimney flue.
Have a guest room you don’t use unless the in-laws are in town? A storage room? Maybe the kids are away at college. Whatever the reason, if you have a room in your house that people rarely enter, you’re wasting valuable energy heating it in the wintertime. Close off all vents in the room and shut all doors. This will prevent you from paying to heat uninhabited space.
It’s much more cost effective to warm your body than your house. Keep the thermostat low and compensate by wearing a nice sweater and warm socks around the house. Stay toasty at night under a thick blanket, comforter, or duvet.
If you’re concerned about keeping your pets warm, consider buying a doggie sweater for your pooch. Sweaters are not recommended for cats. Not only do cats hate clothing, but they also seem to have a natural ability to find the warmest spot in the house anyway.
After heating and cooling systems, water heaters are the second highest source of energy usage in the home. It takes a lot of energy to heat water, and most people have the thermostat on their water heater set way too high.
Your water heater heats water to a set temperature, then maintains that temperature 24/7. That means that your water heater just cycles on and off, continually reheating water to that temperature, whether you use it or not. Just setting the temperature on your water heater a few degrees cooler can save you a couple dollars on your energy bills. Unless you’re in the habit of taking showers at skin-scalding temperatures, you likely won’t even notice the difference.
Everyone knows that ceiling fans are a great way to stay cool in the summer, but did you know that they can also help keep you warm in winter?
Normally, ceiling fans rotate counterclockwise, pushing air down and producing a slight wind chill effect, allowing you to feel cooler. However, most ceiling fans have a reverse switch that will enable them to turn clockwise, producing an updraft and moving the warm air that collects near your ceiling down into the rest of the room.
If you only need to heat a small area, try using a space heater. Electric space heaters are a very energy efficient way to stay warm because there is no heat loss through ducts or combustion. Space heaters are excellent for heating closed-off areas that you only occupy for shorter periods, like your garage or that bathroom that’s always colder than every other room in the house for some reason. However, when it comes to heating your entire house, space heaters are less efficient than a natural gas furnace or a heat pump.
If you’re planning an elaborate Christmas light show this holiday season, consider using LED lights. LED lights are the most energy-efficient lighting option currently available. They use 75% less energy than standard incandescent lights and last 25 times longer. You’ll have to spend a little more up front, but LEDs are so durable and long-lasting that your grandchildren could be using the very same string of lights 40 Christmases from now. They use so little electricity that 25 strings of holiday LEDs can be connected end-to-end without overloading a standard wall socket.
Heating your home entirely with your oven would be an impractical waste of energy. However, if you’re using it anyway, there’s no sense in letting that heat go to waste. After taking dinner out of the oven, leave the door cracked open and allow that extra heat to escape and warm your kitchen.
Lowering the temperature in your home by just a couple degrees can result in significant long-term savings. Turn your thermostat down to the lowest temperature you find comfortable.
According to the U.S. Department of Energy, you can save 10% on your energy bill just by turning your thermostat down 10 to 15 degrees for eight hours a day. Turn down your thermostat when no one is home and when everyone is asleep. You’ll stay toasty warm under your thick blankets while saving money.
Even better, consider purchasing a smart thermostat. A smart thermostat is a Wi-Fi enabled device that automatically adjusts temperature settings in your home for peak energy efficiency. These devices learn your habits and preferences and establish a schedule that automatically adjusts to energy-saving temperatures when you are asleep or away.
Some states and local city governments incentivize installing a smart thermostat with rebates, so be sure to run a search on rebates or other perks available in your area to help you save on a new device. Your energy provider might offer exclusive discounts on smart thermostats, so check with them as well.
Energy savings isn’t just a wintertime activity. Many of these tips will save you money all year long. While you wouldn’t want to wear a thick sweater in front of a space heater in the summer heat, air stripping, insulated curtains, and smart thermostats work equally well in the summer. These techniques are just as capable of keeping your home cool in the summer as they are of keeping you warm in winter. Saving energy in wintertime really is a smart idea for year-round savings.