The time of year has arrived to start thinking about how to keep your Winter utility bills under control as you watch the mercury drop. If you are now just starting to see a rise in your monthly bills, unfortunately, that may get worse depending on where you live. Is it even possible to save money during this season? What lengths will you have to go to in order to hold on to your hard earned cash? How complicated is this going to get?
We are going to break this down into three major areas. First, by working with the things you might already have. Second, a few gadgets that can help you with your energy saving mission. Third, Bigger ticket items that can help you save even more over longer periods of time. This is our ultimate guide to lowering your Winter power costs.
Working With What You’ve Got
The Lost Room – You might be heating a space that you rarely occupy. You know, the room that you never want to hang out in or a guest space that the cat tends to be the only visitor in. Take inventory of what rooms you are actually using and wall off the rest of them. Close the vents and seal them for the time being so the airflow will get to the rooms you are using more on a daily basis.
Look Up – Do you have ceiling fans in your rooms? You might think that fans are typically used to cool spaces down. If you set your fan to a clockwise rotation, the heat that sits at the top of the room will be pushed down to keep you warmer. You will want to use a lower setting so the air doesn’t cool on its way down to you.
Exhaust Systems – This might be the fan in your kitchen or those in your bathrooms. Have you ever turned one of these on and walked out of your house? These exhaust systems can release tons of warm air out of your home. Try to avoid using these in the Winter and if you do need them, remember to shut them off after they’ve been running for a few minutes.
Drafty – It might be a good time to hunt down the drafty spots in your home. Many of these spots can be a major source of heat loss. If you have an attic or basement these should be some of the first spaces you check. After that, go to all the access points of your home like doors, windows, and outlets. You can fix many of these on your own with things like insulation, caulk or even weatherstripping. A good trick is to turn off all of your air systems and light an incense stick. The smoke from this stick will lead you to where the draft(s) are coming from so you can address them.
Filter Check – A quick change of your air filter will impact your heating unit noticeably. These filters can work overtime trying to compensate for build up on your filter. If you can change these out regularly all Winter, since you are spending most of your time indoors, you will see a difference in your heat bill.
Wash and Fold – Laundry is not only “not” fun, but it’s also wreaking havoc on your energy bill. Both units use heat to get your clothes clean so now is the time to pay attention to how much laundry you really need to do. Try using cold water to wash your clothes, this actually preserves the fibers of your clothes better than hot water. If you can hang dry some of your laundry pieces, that habit alone will certainly result in a lower heat bill.
Unplug – The amount of standby power from plugged in (unused) electronics can add up to as much as $100 a year. You can use a power surge or power strip to help you turn everything off at once. No need to pay for this energy if your paying for to just be plugged in, right? You might also want to look into smart outlets that can be linked to a phone app. From your phone, you can have complete control over your home’s electrical grid, whether you are home or not.
The Lesson: When you work with what you already have to stay cozy this Winter, you become highly aware of what is going on in your home. You learn more about energy sucking spaces and how to solve those problems rather than ignoring these and forking over more and more money every month.
Some Simple Adjustments
The Humidifier – Winter months can leave the air in your home feeling extra dry. It is air with some humidity that actually feels warmer because it holds heat better. A humidifier will help you lower your thermostat, and as a result, help you save money. Also, if you add plants to your home, this will also add humidity to the air.
Just Add Insulation – A major money pitfall is all the heat escaping from various points in your home. With insulation being fairly inexpensive, this is truly one the best ways you can save on your heating bill. There are various types of insulation, just ask an expert at your local home improvement store for some guidance on your specific space.
Call it in – A quick check of your system is always a great idea. A professional will evaluate how well your furnace and other appliances are running and catch any mishaps that might be causing inefficiencies. Since they are dealing with these systems all the time, they might be able to pass along some additional tricks to save you money.
Tis The Season of LEDs – LED lights are a must during the holiday season if you don’t want to get burned on your bill. These light options for decorating can use up to 75% less energy than their earlier designed counterparts. Also, if you’re not enjoying them, unplug them when you’re away from the house or off to bed.
Smart Vents – Just like the better known “smart lights” there are now smart vents that can be installed in your home. Rather than manually going around your property, you can control these vents from an app on your phone. The same app you use for your smart lights will likely be able to simultaneously work with your vents. This is a great option when you are away from your home and forgot to shut these, or if you’re just coming back from a long weekend trip and would like your home to be warm when you get there.
The Lesson: Small add-ons or gadgets can be some of the innovative ways to keep your home running as efficiently as possible. These smaller investments can add up to hundreds of dollars in energy savings a year. Keep up to speed with the latest energy saving products and you’ll be ahead of the Winter weather and even be prepared for Summer when temps swing the other way.
Some Bigger Investments
Smart Thermostats – These devices can do wonders for controlling the heat and air in your home. After you program them, they can automatically adjust the temperature of your home with you barely knowing it’s happening. People who have used these kinds of thermostats have reported a 10-to-15 percent reduction in their heat bills. This can add up to hundreds of dollars a year.
Appliance Evaluation – Maybe it’s time to consider some energy-saving appliances. If you are using an older refrigerator, washer, or dryer; it might be the perfect time to switch them out. These larger expenditures might not be on everyone’s list, but if they are, chances are switching to energy star appliances will save you a good bit of cash annually. On average, 20% of the electricity we use comes from the appliances we run. Switching your water heater should also be on your list. Tankless systems have a number of advantages and will maximize your heating budget.
Fancy Shower – A high-efficiency shower head is not only a nice luxury to add to your bathrooms, come to find out, they are also a great energy saver. Did you know you could save upwards of 10-to-15 thousand gallons of water by making this change? This will also directly impact your water use bill.
Space Heaters – Space heaters get a bad rap for being a less than safe option in your home. However, these units can be used safely if you follow their directions and only use them when you’re home. By using your thermostat to control temperature, you risk catapulting your heat cost as you fidget with getting it just the right temperature. An energy efficient space heater is a great way to use only what you make instead of the nonstop use of a traditional thermostat unit.
The Lesson: Larger purchases to make your home more energy efficient in the winter can be a hard cost to take upfront. However, these typically have a longer shelf life and you may even get tax breaks for installing them. Be sure to investigate how these products can work for your home and lifestyle and ask your tax professional if you can see even more savings as you add products to your home.