As the temperatures outside begin to decrease, chances are pretty much certain your monthly energy costs in the winter months are going to do the opposite and rapidly begin to increase. If you are like most people, during the winter season you'll be looking to cut some of those energy costs and save some money.
While wintertime is almost an impossible time to keep your electric and heating bills down to a minimum, the good news is there are some ways you can at least try and reduce those costly expenses and put some of that money back in your bank account.
Here are a few tips to help cut energy costs for fuel and electric:
Cutting Costs on Fuel
Install a digital thermometer
Digital thermometers are a great way to control the level of fuel you're burning. Consumer Reports suggests you can save up to $180 per year by installing one4. Some of these thermometers can be complicated to use, but you can find a good one by doing some research.
By investing in a digital gauge, you can set the heat to turn on and off at your preference. This way you don't need to run the heat all day when you aren't at home, or at a high level at night while you're sleeping under cozy warm blankets.
A great benefit is you can set the heat to increase just before the time you're due to wake up or arrive home; this way you can still maintain comfort without going through feast or famine each time you want to turn down the thermostat to save some energy.
You can also put the digital thermometers features to good use while on vacation -- no more worries about wasting heat so your pipes don't freeze if you turn it off during "borderline" seasons.
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By taking some time and examining for drafts and sealing any found, this could stop heat that is escaping. If the heat you're paying for is escaping, this can get rather costly. For instance, checking the seals on all your entrances and openings can help cut energy costs.
If the problem is in your windows and you are losing excessive heat, it might be worth it to invest in new ones. In previous years both the United States and Canada have offered tax credits for new windows. These appear to have expired as of this writing, however, it is very possible new incentives may be added in the future. Can't hurt to check.
You can also look at easy-to-install solutions, for instance, under the door draft stops could stop a draft that exists in a particular door entry.
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Insulate Your Home
Many homeowners find it beneficial to insulate in between their floors, walls and ceilings. While the initial expense to put in the insulation may be a bit costly, the benefits in subsequent years can be a great return on the investment if you're able to capture heat and close out cool outdoor air that may be slipping through. A bonus is insulation also has a positive impact during the summer months as it will keep the cool air in and the warm air out5.
Close Upstairs Vents
If your home has a vent-based structure and you are in a two story or larger home, you can try closing all or some of the vents located upstairs and allow the heat to rise from the floors below. Additionally, close off vents in seldom used rooms to allow the heat to flow to other more frequently used rooms. However, some experts say this is not the best way to go as it can throw things off balance and/or put stress on your unit. You might want to check with your HVAC service technician to see what works best in your home.
Drapes are heavier in density and can help keep heat in a room, especially at night when temperatures tend to drop even more. Ways you can effectively 'trap' in heat are good money saving opportunities. During the day hours when the sun is shining, open them to allow the light to shine in.
Cutting Costs on Electricity
Fill Appliances to Capacity
It is always a good practice to fill your washer, dryer and dishwasher to capacity in order to maximize the energy expense you're consuming. However, in the winter, since energy costs are generally higher than they are in spring or fall, you may want to concentrate heavier on conservative energy use.
Another way to save is to try to use the dryer less and hang your clothes instead. While heat is running, your home is warm, and if you have a well-positioned area in your house where you can hang clothes and catch some of the radiating heat, you can lessen your reliance on the dryer and save some additional usage on electricity. Forbes also gives a tip: Toss a dry towel in the dryer with a load of wet clothes, it will absorb a lot of the water. About half-way through, take the towel out and let it air dry3.
Unplug Appliances Not in Use
If you have several appliances you do not use often, or if you plan to be away from your home for extended periods of time, unplug anything you aren't using. Even though it's not a lot of energy, there is still a bit of electric being used even if the appliance isn't being used, if you unplug, you cut off all electricity and can save a bit more. This is a good practice to use all year long, for both large and small appliances. It may not seem like much, but over time those pennies and nickels saved will add up.
Practice General Conservative Energy Use
Other practices to turn into good habits include turning off lights in rooms you don't need it. Additionally, turning off TVs, radios, video game consoles, computers and other electronic gadgets when not in use will also help reduce costly wattage use. Did you know you can save approximately $30 to $50 each year on your electricity bills when you use your computer's sleep mode or power management feature? The U.S. Dept. of Energy and the Environmental Protection Agency provide these estimates.
The winter months are a time where energy costs can soar if you aren't careful. The good news is with a bit of proactive planning and some changes in energy-use habits, you can effectively cut some of your energy costs during the chilly winter months.