There is no wrong time to invest in home energy saving solutions, but winter is especially challenging on families, because heating costs can send your utility bill spiraling out of control. With a few smart changes, the combined effort of every member, and a small upfront investment, you can realize cost savings year round without sacrificing comfort.
1. Improve furnace airflow with a new filter
Air filters trap airborne particles that circulate through your HVAC system. Over several days, weeks, or months, the filter loads and air flow is reduced. This can diminish air flow and prevent warm air from reaching rooms that are further away in the home. The result is family members wanting to let the furnace run longer than necessary.
2. A 5-minute shower saves on water and heating costs
A lot of people don’t want to give up their shower time. The hot water relaxes muscles, its stream opens sinuses, and running water creates a soothing white noise, adding to a really great moment to ourselves. You’ll need to weigh the pros and cons of spending less time in the shower. Some people swear by a 5-minute shower, but if you are going longer just be sure you are using a low-flow shower head, and maybe leave the water a little cooler.
3. Turn down the thermostat a few degrees
Turning down the heat by two degrees in the winter can save families hundreds of dollars. Consider setting the thermostat to 68 degrees Fahrenheit in the winter, or 66 for even bigger savings. Not only are you using less energy, but it also places less strain on expensive air conditioning equipment. This may extend the life of your HVAC system and prevent expensive repairs down the road.
4. Bundle up with sweaters and beanies
Getting the entire family together and warm under a big quilt is a great way to spend the evening. When not together, leave heavy blankets, sweaters, and beanies around the home. Our bodies lose most of our heat through extremities (hands, feet, head), so cover up with heavy cotton or wool, instead of cranking up the heat.
5. Turn down your water heater; then add insulation
There are many homeowners that do not know the current temperature setting on their water heater. The Consumer Product Safety Commission recommends a setting of 120 degrees Fahrenheit (49 Celsius). This setting may help prevent burns resulting from a setting that is too high, and a loss of residual heat when heated water sits in the tank for an extended period of time. Visit your local home improvement store and find an insulating sleeve that wraps around the water heater.
6. There is always money in the dryer lint trap
It only takes a few dryer cycles to clog the lint trap and decrease efficiency. When moisture can’t evaporate and blow outside, the dryer has to run longer, and energy use skyrockets. A good idea is to keep a small trash can in the laundry room to toss lint after every cycle. If possible, set up a clothes line somewhere inside that gets sun during cold months. This will help humidify the air and save you a few dryer cycles each week.
7. Wash clothes in cold water; wash bedding and towels in hot water
We suggest washing all clothing in cold water, but we understand that soil levels and the need to sanitize fabrics are important. However, there is little reason to wash fabrics free of stains or strong odors in hot water. Cold water will give you a similar level of clean.
8. Caulk windows and check door runners for gaps
Older buildings tend to have issues with drafty windows and doors. Thin panes of glass or aging seals can leave gaps that let an alarming amount of cold air inside. Your local department store will carry caulking designed to fix gaps in windows or other areas, such as walls and roofing. Fixing door runners will require you to strip off old material before installing new pieces. However, these materials shouldn’t be too expensive and will make a world of difference.
9. Make the switch to modern light emitting diodes (LEDs)
The average incandescent bulb uses around 60 watts, while a similar LED uses 10 watts. That translates to a nearly six-fold savings for just a single bulb. Now imagine every bulb in your home is LED. Yes, they are more expensive to purchase, but the long-term savings are hard to ignore.
10. Unplug chargers and other electronics to avoid “vampire” expenses
Whether we are using electronics or not, a small amount of energy (up to 5%) is wasted when we don’t unplug them when not in use. This is becoming more of a problem as wall outlet chargers for cell phones and tablets become more commonplace. Remember to remove these from the walls when not in use.
11. Decorate with brighter colors and turn off lights
Dark furniture, walls, and flooring absorb light which can make a room appear dim. You may try to overcome this with more lighting, but that will only drive up energy costs. Instead, plan your home décor using lighter shades of your favorite color. Try sticking with cooler colors on the walls and stick with bright flooring. Keep warmer fabrics to a minimum, or place them in areas that already have a lot of natural light.
12. Upgrade to Energy Star appliances
The ENERGY STAR label is applied to products that save energy without sacrificing features or functionality. We saved this one until last, because replacing appliances can be costly. However, these can be expected to last for decades, so over time you will realize the cost savings.
There you have it! These 12 tips should set you on the right path to winter energy savings. Always remember to be on the lookout for other tips and ideas to save on energy costs. You may not see those savings right away, but over time, finding small ways to reduce energy consumption will add up to more money in your pocket!