Cooler temperatures are here. For some, this time of year brings a sense of joy and thoughts of sitting by a fire and sipping hot chocolate. For others, it may bring about feelings of dread, filled with thoughts of dressing in huge sweaters and ski pants from head to toe, never quite being able to get warm.
Winter should be a time of cozying up in a warm house, watching holiday specials on television, and smelling cookies baking in the oven. But all of those things require energy, sometimes more than usual. After the fun, you’re left with energy bills that can cause a momentary panic.
With the average monthly electric bill in Louisiana being $105, plus added natural gas and water costs, it’s easy to feel the pinch of utility bills during winter. Use these tips to reduce energy costs in your home this season.
Insulate your home
Insulating an attic can be one of the most cost-effective ways to keep warm. For most homes, experts recommend using R-30 to R-69 insulation. If you already have the right amount of attic insulation and you're still having trouble keeping comfortable, consider adding insulation to your walls.
Fix air leaks around doors and windows
By adding weather stripping your doors and windows to seal leaks, you could shave up to 20% off your energy bill. To identify problem areas, shine a flashlight into the edges of doors and windows at night and have someone outside watch for where light comes through.
Changing your filters regularly is important. A dirty filter will make your heating system work harder and use more energy. You can extend your HVAC system’s life and cut costs just by changing your filter once a month and having your system serviced once a year.
Install a programmable thermostat
According to the US Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Energy Star® program, the average homeowner can save about $180 a year by using a programmable thermostat. You can set it to automatically reduce heat when you don’t need as much (like during work hours or when you’re sleeping), then watch your costs shrink.
Set your thermostat lower in the winter
This tip may be hard for the cold-natured, but it will save money and energy in the long run. We’ve heard it for a long time, but keeping the temperature in your home as low as you can stand really can make a difference in your winter costs. To mitigate the cold, wear sweaters and use blankets while in your home. What a small price to pay to save money!
Buy energy-efficient appliances
Did you know the type of appliances you use could mean hundreds of dollars in energy savings each year? It’s true—Energy Star-certified appliances use 10% to 50% less energy a year compared to standard appliances. In addition to costing you less to run, they may even qualify for rebates. Check out the EPA’s list of qualifying products at https://www.energystar.gov/products.
Set your water heater to 120 degrees
A long, hot shower may feel great when it’s cold outside, but it can cost you. Most water heaters default to 140 degrees, but many households can still get plenty of warm water when lowering the temperature to 120 degrees. This simple change can reduce your water heating costs by 10%.
Use your ceiling fans
Use ceiling fans in the winter? Yes! Ceiling fans can be as good at warming up rooms as cooling them. Use the small switch near the blades to change the direction of your ceiling fans so they rotate clockwise. Please don’t do this while the fan is turned on. Once you do, this will cause air to be pushed upward, helping to spread warm air throughout the room.
Replace light bulbs and holiday lights with energy-saving types
Although light-emitting diode lights generally cost more up-front, they last 25 times longer and use at least 75% less energy than an incandescent bulb. Therefore, you’ll pay significantly less for electricity over a year if you use LEDs. As an added safety bonus, using LED holiday lights gives you a lower risk of fire than using traditional types. LEDs are also break-resistant and may last up to 40 holiday seasons.
At the end of winter, you’ll be surprised to see how these relatively small changes will have a big impact on your costs—which means more money in your pocket for other things.