Even though this may end up being the warmest winter on record (surpassing last year’s claim to that title), much of the US is still experiencing typical winter conditions. The good news is that natural gas prices are at 16-year-low and oil prices are at an 11-year-low. That being said, in cold weather even the most meticulously planned family budget can be strained with the additional heating costs during the winter months. This especially applies to people living in single detached homes or townhouses. Here are a few suggestions to lower your heating bill when the temperatures drop:
Cut back on usage
Generally a no-brainer to saving energy and money, you still need to be warm enough to function during the winter. Keeping the thermostat at 68 degrees is the standard recommended practice to maximize your savings. You may need to adjust this temperature up or down depending on your home; you can experiment in one or two degree intervals. If you turn the heat down, make sure you have a sweater! You may be able to turn it down even lower at night and when you are out of the house, keeping in mind the safety of any pets.
Other common-sense solutions are taking shorter showers to save on hot water, only running dishwashers and clothes washers when the loads are full, turning off lights in unoccupied rooms, and turning off and/or unplugging electronic devices when not in use. You’d be surprised how much power an iPhone charger can draw when left plugged in and not used! Turning off bathroom and kitchen ventilator fans when not in use will also keep them from sucking the hot air out of your living spaces. Traditional fireplaces, while cozy, can also suck your hot air out the chimney; make sure the damper is closed when the fireplace is not in use. A good rule of thumb in general for saving energy is: if you’re not using it, shut it down/off.
Take advantage of free and low-cost solutions
There are many free and low-cost opportunities for saving energy and money during the cold months. Keeping your windows open during the day allows the sunlight to heat your home for free. Make sure you close the blinds and/or drapes at night to keep the heat in. You may want to consider plastic wrapping older windows to keep the cold air from penetrating leaks.
Finding the air leaks in and around your home can go a long way towards keeping the home warm and the savings high; a little caulk and weather stripping can go a long way. Keeping your furnace and hot water heater regularly maintained will save money in the long run as well.
Use ENERGY STAR rated light bulbs and LED Christmas lights to save on your holiday power bills; they save 75% of the energy used by traditional incandescent lighting. Low-flow showerheads and faucets can also reduce your water heating costs by as much as 16%, according to the California Energy Commission.
Invest in long-term energy savings
Money spent on energy preservation now can help you save in the long-term when it comes to heating your home. If you’re purchasing a new major household appliance, make sure it is ENERGY STAR-certified; ENERGY STAR washes use 50% less energy, and ENERGY STAR refrigerators use 20% less energy than their standard new non-ES counterparts.
Installing a programmable thermostat will help by lowering the house temperature automatically at preset times of day so you don’t have to remember. ENERGY STAR high efficiency windows can reduce your heating (and cooling) costs up to 15% year round. And if you are feeling extremely motivated and serious on this topic, you can increase your ceiling insulation and/or hire a contractor to look for leaking ductwork in your house. Repaired leaks and restrictions in the ducts will tighten up your energy ship. Some states offer rebates and consumer programs if you make energy-related home improvements, so be sure to check with your state and local government offices before embarking on any serious projects - there may be financial assistance waiting for you.
Perhaps the most major of these kinds of improvements would be fitting your home with solar panels; while this is beyond the scope of this short article, it can often be worth investigating what kind of government and private incentives exist in your community for this transition. A local solar power firm would be able to assist you with information, and often will come to your home for a free evaluation of the costs involved and possible savings.
The Alliance for Affordable Services is committed to helping you save money year round in many different areas: health, small business, insurance, travel, and personal shopping. Alliance members who own homes can save on homeowner’s insurance through MetLife’s Auto and Home Discount at group rates (not available in FL or MA). Members also receive access to the Working Advantage program which includes discounts of up to 60% at hundreds of different retail partners, including home and garden online and brick-and-mortar stores. For more information, and to become an Alliance member, visit the Alliance Direct Benefits website today or call us at 1-800-733-2242 (M-F, 7am-5:30pm Central Time).