As we creep closer to the first day of winter, many of us are already turning 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 are wise steps — for the environment and your comfort — they may not currently suit your pocketbook.
Fortunately, there are simple, affordable things you can do to reduce your power consumption. Here are 10 energy-saving tips to help you lower your energy bill during the cold winter months.
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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 for an improvised draft stopper.
Add Some Insulating Window Covers
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. Or go a different route with thermal insulating curtains, which offer the the added benefits of blocking external lights and noise for a better sleep.
Check Your Heating Vents
Double-check to make sure all of the vents for your central heating system are open and unblocked. 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 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 you’re not wasting energy when you’re away from the home, you can install a programmable thermostat. Set the heat to turn on only during the hours when you’ll be home. While they cost a bit more, smart thermostats are programmable thermostats with additional benefits and may even pay for themselves with the energy savings they provide.
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% to 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. Whether you’re baking a healthy casserole or a batch of yummy of vegan brownies, 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 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 you’re not using them to avoid standby energy drain. Simplify this by plugging related devices (such as computer, monitor, and printer) into a power strip so you can simply shut them all off at the same time. To simplify this even further, use smart power strips. These 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. While LEDs are more expensive, but they use less energy than incandescent bulbs and last two to four times longer than CFLs, saving you money in the long run.
Originally published on November 26, 2014, this article was updated in December 2022.