When the mercury plunges, electricity costs soar. And energy inefficiencies in the home can raise your bill even higher. Every window, door, outlet, and crawl space is a potential site of energy waste. Fortunately, there are a number of simple ways to save energy in winter and keep your electricity bill low — while staying as warm as possible.
1. Keep Your Home’s Temperature Low
Keep the temperature in your home as low as possible, especially when you’re away from the house. Turning the thermostat down before bed is another great energy saver, as you can rely on blankets to keep you warm overnight. When you’re awake, 68 degrees is generally considered the most energy-efficient temperature setting during winter. Even a few degrees’ difference at certain times of day could make a big impact on your energy costs.
2. Invest in a Smart Thermostat
Wi-Fi-enabled smart thermostats are an efficiency game changer. These thermostats will learn your behavior and habits, automatically adjusting the temperature when you’re out of the house or sleeping. Visiting relatives this holiday season? You can manage your home temperature remotely through a mobile app to make sure you’re using as little energy as possible while you’re away. The initial investment (devices cost anywhere from $70 to $250) will soon pay for itself in monthly savings.
3. Leave the Oven Ajar after Use
While it would be inefficient to use your oven solely as a heater, you can capitalize on any leftover heat by leaving the door open when you’re finished cooking. Of course, make sure the oven is no longer running.
4. Switch Your Ceiling Fans to “Winter Mode”
Ceiling fans don’t get as much air time during winter, but they can play a key role in your winter energy efficiency plan. If you hit the reverse switch (usually located on the base of the fan) and set the speed to low, your fan will create an updraft that moves warm air near the ceiling down to the rest of the room.
5. Make Use of Sunny Days
Sunshine can do more than lift your spirits. Be sure to open your curtains when the sun is out, as solar heat will enhance the existing warmth in your house.
6. Close Window Treatments at Night
But when the sun goes down, your windows are more likely to waste energy. Close curtains at night to prevent excessive heat loss, and consider investing in insulated drapes to further reduce energy waste.
7. Seal Window, Door, Attic, and Basement Air Leaks
Caulking and weatherstripping are two relatively inexpensive ways to seal off air leaks around windows, external doors, and attic and basement crawl spaces. Check around external openings for split caulk and damaged weatherstrips. You can also apply plastic film to your windows to prevent heat loss through window panes in winter. Window film application and removal are fairly simple, and the energy savings are significant.
8. Make Sure Your Insulation Is Sufficient
In addition to reducing air leaks, maintaining a robust insulation system is perhaps the most essential way to save energy in the home. Knowing what type of insulation lines your home will inform how often you inspect and repair it. Some types of insulation, such as cellulose and fiberglass, have shorter lifespans (20 to 30 and 15 to 20 years, respectively). If your insulation was installed more than a decade ago, an inspection or home energy audit might be a good idea.
Water damage can also shorten your insulation’s lifespan and decrease energy efficiency. Leaks and roof damage can soak insulation, creating a mold-friendly environment that wreaks havoc on the air quality in your house. Moreover, when insulation becomes wet, it ceases to repel electricity and actually becomes a conductor — which can double your electricity bills.
9. Replace Air & Furnace Filters Regularly
Air filter replacement is another measure that not only saves energy, but also protects your health. Central heating and air filters are designed to reduce particulate pollution (such as dust, mold, and pet dander) in your home. As the filters capture more and more particles, they become increasingly dense, which makes it hard for air to permeate the filter. Fiberglass filters should be replaced about every 30 days, but higher-quality pleated air filters can be replaced every three to six months.
Furnace filters should also be replaced for similar reasons: replacement maintains the quality of your air and ensures that the appliance does not work harder than it should (thereby managing energy usage). Most furnace filters should be replaced every three months.
10. Don’t Lose Heat Through Your Fireplace
A glowing fireplace can fill a room with warmth and unbeatable ambiance, but it can also release heat when it’s not in use. Make sure to close your fireplace damper so you don’t inadvertently send precious heat energy out into the cold winter’s night.
11. Stay Warm with Blankets and Sweaters
It takes far less energy to warm your body than it does to warm your home. Instead of increasing the temperature by two degrees, opt for layered clothing, blankets, and thick socks. It’s a low-effort, cost-effective way to save money on your electricity bill. Bonus: everyone looks great in a sweater.
12. Use Space Heaters
Sometimes you just don’t need to heat the entire house. Small, sealed spaces such as bathrooms, garages, and studies can be effectively warmed using a small space heater. So if you’re planning to spend an afternoon in the garage tinkering on your latest woodworking project, keep those air vents closed; use a space heater instead.
13. Close Vents and Doors to Unused Rooms
You know that spare bedroom you’re using as a storage closet? It doesn’t need to be heated. Closing the air vents and doors to unused rooms will force warmth back to inhabited spaces, thereby reducing your overall heating costs.
14. Swap Incandescent Bulbs with LEDs
This year-round energy-efficiency tip is no less valid in winter. Switching to LED lightbulbs could save you on average $225 in energy costs per year.¹ LED bulbs last much longer than traditional incandescents, use small amounts of energy, and are now available in a variety of sizes, shapes, and colors. This is another relatively quick and cost-efficient way to save energy throughout the year.
15. Beware of Vampire Power
It vants to drain your bank account! But seriously — vampire electricity is the energy wasted by countless devices and appliances that remain plugged in even when they’re not in use. Studies have shown that vampire electricity accounts for 5 – 10% of the total electricity use in residential homes, and about 1% of the world’s carbon dioxide emissions.² That’s not only bad for your wallet — it’s a significant contributor to climate change.
Saving Energy Is Always in Season
Winter poses its own challenges to the waste-conscious consumer, but with a few clever adjustments, you can decrease your energy bill and lighten your carbon footprint year-round.
Still wondering why your electric bill is so high? Keep reading for more ways to save energy.