With the cold, winter season upon us, many of us are looking for ways to cut on energy bills during these power-consuming months. Not everyone can afford to replace old windows, update their HVAC systems, or insulate walls, but there are smaller ways to cut a significant amount off of your winter consumption. Check out these five hacks to lower your energy bills.
When kids and adults return inside after the summer, more electronic devices get used. Take a moment and count all of the things that are plugged into outlets around the home. It’s a lot, isn’t it? Devices make up 5-10% of electricity usage just by being on standby 24 hours a day. To offset the rise in consumption, consider unplugging them.
The major culprits are large appliances, but anything with a cord adds up. Maybe it’s convenient to leave lamps plugged in, but can you unplug the coffee maker and phone chargers after they’ve been used? Also, consider using one power cord for a group of things so you only need to unplug one thing from the wall. The entertainment section of your home is a good place to do this, as it’s a big energy sucker – plus, there’s the added benefit of turning off the WIFI while you sleep to get a nightly “digital detox”.
Turn Down the Heat
We all like to keep cozy when winter is upon us, but keeping your eye on the thermostat is an easy way to reduce your bills. Most people know that the less heat and air conditioning you use, the more savings you gain, but did you know it averages to about 3% per degree? Most thermostats can be set on a timer if you aren’t good at checking things every day, and new smart home technology allows you to change settings from your phone.
Making your home a few degrees cooler while you sleep or are away can save $10-20 on your next bill. Also, try to keep it around 68 degrees when you are there, as it’s easier for most homes to maintain that temp without the furnace continuously turning on.
Check the Hot Water Heater
Another simple, but substantial savings opportunity is to check the setting of your hot water tank. Manufacturers tend to set tank and tankless heaters higher than they need to be. Newer tank models may have a simple dial that you can turn – look for a middle ground setting, for instance “hot” may suffice if your heater had been set to “very hot”, or the highest setting. Remember, that's what the water is being heated to regularly, even when not in use. For tankless heaters, default settings are usually around 140 degrees Fahrenheit. Set the temp to 120, instead, and reap a savings of 5% per 10 degrees that it’s lowered.
Older, draftier homes will especially benefit from this, but newer homes will, too. Use your hand, or a stick of incense to see where drafts are coming in. The most common culprits are underneath exterior doors, around drafty windows, and along the baseboards on outside walls. Install door sweeps underneath exterior doors to stop air coming through.
Foam stripping can be applied in the space where exterior doors close against the jambs, and around windows where you don’t want to use permanent caulking inside an old window frame—that way, you can peel it off come spring weather and open your windows easily. Otherwise, latex caulking is recommended to seal up drafts along window trim. A can of spray foam can be shot underneath baseboards to seal up any gaps, then cut with a utility knife and painted if need be, or covered with shoe molding. A few hours of work can save you 5-10% on your next energy bill.
5. Invest in Window Coverings
A great way to reduce energy costs is to cover your windows with good quality blinds or curtains. Even new windows account for around 30% of your home’s heat loss. Curtains are the best choice as they can reduce up to 35% of heat loss in winter months, compared to blinds that cut 15% (blinds are better at keeping out the heat in the summer, however). Of course, not all curtains are made the same – thermal or thick curtains are the most effective compared to sheer drapes. Open them on sunny days to allow for sunlight to naturally heat your home, and then close them up when it gets dark. It works both ways, too—in the summer, curtains and blinds can reduce heat gain by blocking sunlight, making them a great investment all year round.
You don’t have to break the bank with major purchases to save money on energy costs. While upgrades to your HVAC systems, insulation, or doors and windows can be a great way to reduce energy costs, not everyone can afford them right away. Use these 5 hacks to lower your energy bills, and put the monthly savings towards bigger investments for the future.