Winter weather

As the fall chill begins to set in, many of us are already cranking up our heaters. Unfortunately, when you crank up the heat, the power company cranks up your bill.

Most people don’t have the option of heating their homes with a wood-burning stove and must rely on a furnace. In addition, most of our homes are not as energy-efficient as they could be. While conducting a professional energy audit and making all the upgrades needed to improve your home’s efficiency is an excellent idea for the environment and your comfort, it may not currently suit your pocketbook.

Fortunately, there are simple, affordable things you can do to reduce your power consumption. Here are 10 helpful tips for melting away energy bill shock this winter.

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Use Door Draft Stoppers

Cold, drafty air often sneaks in underneath doors. You can purchase simple door draft stoppers to cover up these cracks. If you have a bit of a crafty bent, you can easily make your own. You can even roll up a rug to improvise.

Window Insulator Kits

As houses settle, cracks tend to form around windows. If there are drafts sneaking in through your windows, it could cost a lot more to heat your home. You can buy a window insulation kit to cover your windows in a thin plastic film in the winter months to keep out the chill.

Check Your Heating Vents

Double-check to make sure all of the vents for your central heating system are open. Contrary to popular belief, closing the vents does not save energy and could eventually damage your HVAC system. If they are all open, your system won’t have to work so hard to keep your home warm.

Replace (or Clean) Your Air Filters

For your heating system to work optimally, the air filters need to be clean and free of dust and debris. Most systems will need the filters to be changed each month for full efficiency. If you have a reusable filter, be sure to check it monthly during the heating season and clean it if necessary.

Install a Programmable or Smart Thermostat

To make it easier to ensure the heat is turned off when you’re away from the home, you can install a programmable thermostat. Set the heat to only go on during the hours when you’ll be home. While they cost more, smart thermostats are programmable thermostats with additional benefits and may even pay for themselves by the energy they save you.

ecobee3 smart thermostat
The ecobee smart thermostat, photo courtesy of ecobee

Set Your Water Heater at 120° F

Water heaters are the second-highest consumers of energy in the home (after your HVAC system). By lowering your water heater temperature to 120 degrees Fahrenheit, you can reduce your water heating expenses by 4-22% annually. If you have an older water heater, you may want to consider insulating it to improve its efficiency.

Cook With Your Oven

Ovens can pull double duty in the winter. While you’re cooking a casserole in the oven, you get the side benefit of heating up your home at the same time.

Add Extra Blankets to Your Bed

Instead of turning up the heat at night, turn it down and add an extra blanket or down comforter to your bed to keep toasty warm. If you have a programmable thermostat, you can set it to turn up the heat just before you get out of bed in the morning.

Use Smart Power Strips

During the winter months, most people spend more time indoors than outdoors, which leads to more use of electronic devices like TVs and video game systems — and a higher energy bill. To reduce the amount of power your devices use, make sure they are shut off completely when they’re not in use, to avoid standby energy drain. Instead of turning each device off, plug them all into a power strip and you can just shut the power strip off — if you remember. Smart power strips come with added features, such as the ability to detect when a device is in standby mode and turn off the power for you.

Replace Your Light Bulbs

Get rid of your old incandescent bulbs and replace them with LEDs. They are more expensive, but they use less energy than incandescent and last even longer than CFLs, saving you money in the long run.

Feature image courtesy of Julie Falk. Originally published on November 26, 2014, this article was updated in November 2021.

By Chrystal Johnson

Chrystal Johnson, publisher of Happy Mothering, founder of Green Moms Media and essential oil fanatic, is a mother of two sweet girls who believes in living a simple, natural lifestyle. A former corporate marketing communication manager, Chrystal spends her time researching green and eco-friendly alternatives to improve her family's life.