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Take Steps to Tame Winter Utility Bills

While you may think of high electricity bills during the summer when you are using air conditioning, the winter months can sap plenty of electricity and raise energy bills as well. Because of the colder winter air, extra lighting usage, and increased time spent at home this time of year, you may notice your energy bills rising rather than falling. 

Balance your budget and save your money for something other than electricity by following these simple tips this winter.

Replace old weather-stripping: Weather-stripping is found around all your doors and windows and even at the bottom of your garage door. As it ages, due to fluctuating temperatures and weather conditions, the rubber can begin breaking down and will become less effective over the years.

Weather-stripping should be replaced about every three years.

Caulk around outdoor leaks: Leaks around pipes and vents going in and out your home can let in cold air during the winter. Caulk around any openings with outdoor-approved acrylic or latex caulking. You may even want to consider a silicone caulk that can be painted over to match your home’s color.

Check your fireplace damper: If you have a gas or wood-burning fireplace, it is the perfect place to curl up in front of during a chilly winter night. Of course, you must open the fireplace damper while you are using it to prevent smoke or carbon monoxide buildup in your home. Be sure to close your damper as soon as your fire is out to prevent chilly downdrafts through your chimney.

Check your water heater: Almost nothing feels better in the winter than a hot morning shower or a steaming bath before bedtime. However, a water heater takes a great deal of energy if you have it turned to one of its higher settings. Save money and still stay comfortable by turning your water heater down to the warm temperature setting of 120 degrees.

Wait for full loads in your kitchen and laundry room: If you are a habit-loving person, you may like the idea of running your dishwasher every evening or throwing a load of clothes or linens into your washer every day. However, washing and drying partially empty loads of laundry or dishes uses nearly as much energy as full load. Instead, save up your dishes and laundry for an extra day or two to get as much usage out of your electricity as possible.

Invest in power strips: Power strips offer great energy savings along with their capacity to protect appliances from electricity surges. Surprisingly, many items in your home continue to leach energy even when they appear to be turned off. This is particularly true for items run by a remote along with numerous small kitchen appliances. By plugging some of these items into a power strip, you can easily turn them on and off to save money.

Schedule yearly maintenance for Your HVAC system or furnace:  A dirty or poorly functioning furnace or HVAC system could lead to increased energy usage as the system has to work harder and longer than usual to heat your home. By scheduling an annual checkup with a technician, you can rest assured that your heating system is ready to work hard for you throughout the winter months.

Use a programmable thermostat: With a programmable thermostat, you can automatically set the temperature in your home lower while you are at work or in bed. Even a small drop in temperature for a few hours can result in significant energy savings.

Switch to LED lights: Although the initial switch to LED lights can seem expensive if you are used to purchasing incandescent bulbs for only a dollar or two, they can add up to years of energy savings. Try making the switch slowly; changing each incandescent bulb to LED once it burns out. Additionally, choosing LED bulbs for holiday lights saves a great deal of money.

Embrace cozy sweaters and socks: You may find that you can turn down the temperature in your home by another degree or two if you simply dress a bit warmer. Opt for sweatshirts, sweaters and thick socks made with natural fibers that help trap heat without leaving you sweating.

Let the sun work for you: Although letting too much sunshine in during the summer can be disastrous to your cooling bill, it can be quite helpful during the winter when the sun naturally adds a bit of warmth to your rooms. However, be sure to close your blinds, shades and curtains once the sun sets.

Stay Warm and Save this Winter

Implementing just a few of these tips can help you increase utility savings and create a budget that works better for you. For more tips and tricks for financial health and money management, check out La Capitol’s Financial Education Center.

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