11 ways to reduce winter energy bills and still be comfy
With the holidays just around the corner, many of us have started to drag out our heavier sweaters and winter coats, hoping warmer temps last a bit longer but being on the safe side just in case. Once winter arrives, all bets are off, and if you live in colder climes, you'll be looking for ways to stay warm without breaking the bank.
Colder temps typically bring utility bills that are a little harder to swallow. And while turning up the heat may not result in winter energy bills as high as when you've got the AC blasting 24/7 — we're looking at you, southern states — they can still add up, especially since you may be spending more time indoors with remote work and online schooling to consider.
7 winter energy savings tips
We pulled together the following seven tips to help you save a little on home energy costs in the wintertime.
Let the sunshine In: Pull back any window shades and open your blinds as soon as you wake up in the morning. This allows sunlight to shine in and raise indoor temps by a couple of degrees. It doesn't seem like a lot at first, but you'll notice it as the day progresses. Watching a cat or dog nap in pools of sunlight is a good indication that it's working. When the sun starts to set, do the reverse and close curtains. This will help retain any heat absorbed during the day.
Storm window installation: Storm windows are a cost-effective way to upgrade existing windows that are old, drafty, and energy inefficient. Low-emissivity storm windows are coated with a thin, virtually invisible layer of metal, which reflects infrared heat back into the home. This can help lower utility bills just as much as replacing an entire window. On average, they can save you up to ⅓ of home heating costs.
Adjust your temps: Another way to save on your heating bills is by reducing the temperature in your house by a degree or two. If you usually keep the house at 72 degrees, move your thermostat down to 68. You may feel the need to wear a sweater indoors, but in reality, the small difference is hardly noticeable.
Space heaters. Paying to run a central heating system to heat the entire house — when you might be retired to a single room or home office for hours each day — doesn't make a whole lot of sense. Portable space heaters don't replace a traditional system, but they can perform a perfect quick fix for a space that just won't heat up. Focusing on only the room you're in will reduce the wear and tear of your central heating system. Wayfair has a great selection of portable space heaters starting at under $75.
Rock the oven: Dining at home again? Try turning your home heating way down before you start cooking. The heat from a stove or oven can raise the temps of a kitchen/living area by several degrees, especially if you live in a condo or a smaller home with an open floorplan.
Reverse your ceiling fans: If your ceiling fans have a switch that changes the direction that the blades spin, you're in luck. In summer, you want a ceiling fan to push air down, creating a breeze. However, in winter, you should be reversing the direction to draw air up. This pushes warm air away from your ceiling (heat rises, remember?) and circulates it throughout the house, making it more comfortable without increasing the strain (and costs) of using central heating.
Lighten up: The sun goes down much earlier in the winter months, which means that you'll probably be turning on interior lights earlier as well. We suggest splurging for energy-efficient light bulbs. They save you money on your wintertime electric bills and tend to last longer than less expensive bulbs, so you won't need to replace them as often.
4 more tips to help save energy year-round
We saved these tips for last so you can save even when the weather warms up.
Get with the program: Everybody's got one. Why not you? Programmable thermostats make it easy to save on utility bills — in both summer and winter. You set distinct temperature targets for specific times of day — maybe you like it cooler at bedtime and warmer when you wake up — and your heat will adjust automatically. No more having to remember to tweak the thermostat when you leave the house or go to bed.
Power off: As a kid, you were probably taught to turn off the lights or shut the TV when you left a room. That's more important today as modern devices suck up even more energy. Laptops, mobile phones, routers, game systems, Bluetooth speakers, cordless vacuums: the list of things you need to charge is endless. Want to get a good feel of what's sapping your electricity? Turn off all the lights tonight and you'll be amazed at how much is glowing. Our suggestion? Get some power strips for chargeable electronics so they can be easily powered off when not in use.
Pull the plug: Take that last thought one step further: consider all the appliances you have plugged in day and night. How many do you use just occasionally? Small appliances suck up power even when they're not turned on. You can save on energy bills by disconnecting your coffee machine and plug-in air freshener when not in use. And those phone and laptop chargers that you leave plugged in even when devices aren't attached? Feel how hot they are: they're leeching power even when you're not using them.
Be more energy-efficient: Buying the latest appliances for your new home? Splurge for energy-efficient versions of the dishwashers, fridges, washers and clothes driers you're aiming to buy. The extra cash upfront will save you a ton in energy costs over the years.
By following these easy tips, you can reduce your energy bills throughout the winter. For other tips, read see our fall home-maintenance checklist, our holiday home safety checklist and 13 home improvements that are totally worth it.