The cold air and biting breezes of fall and winter often make people spend a lot more time at home, with the heat cranked up. These two factors drive up energy bills for months at a time.
If you’re trying to keep a handle on a pretty thin budget, spikes in your monthly energy bill can be a serious hardship. It’s especially tough around the holidays, when travel, gifts, lost work hours, and other factors often put extra strain on your wallet.
With a little preparation and know-how, you can do quite a bit to keep your fall and winter heating and energy bills down. How much you save depends on all sorts of things, including the size of your home, how often someone’s at home, how efficient your heating system is, and more. Still, the savings definitely add up over the months. Any steps you take to reduce your energy use in the cold weather helps keep your bills down (and it’s good for the environment too).
How to Lower Winter Energy Usage
- Keep the thermostat set as low as is comfortable. You get used to lower temperatures, so if you turn the heat down a degree or two every day or two, you gradually reduce the need to keep the heat cranked up so high. Every degree you turn down the thermostat through the 60s and 70s saves about 5% on heating costs.
- Turn the heat down when nobody’s home. Sure, it’s nice to walk into a toasty house or apartment, but don’t pay to heat your place when nobody’s there to enjoy it. Don’t let the place get too cold while you’re out, though, or your heater will have to work extra hard for an extra long time when you get in.
- Turn the heat down overnight. Once everyone’s asleep and snug under their blankets, you don’t need the thermostat turned up so high.
- Bundle up! Putting on an extra layer of clothes, a scarf, gloves, or a blanket warms you right up without using any energy.
- Open the blinds or curtains during the day to let the sun in. It warms the room, and the natural light also reduces the need for artificial lighting, which contributes to energy consumption too. Close the blinds or curtains again at night though to hold back the cold coming off the glass.
- Apply weather stripping or caulk to drafty doors and windows. This can drastically cut the cold air that comes in, and simultaneously helps hold in more heat. If you rent, ask your landlord about having this done for you.
- Tightly seal a clear plastic sheet over problem windows. Even something like a clear shower liner from a dollar or discount store is great for holding out drafts and cold air. Just make sure to seal it completely with sturdy tape.
- Use small portable space heaters. If you can get by using these, they’re cheaper alternatives to central heating. Just be careful, because they pose a burn hazard to young children and pets.
- Limit your time taking hot showers. Long, hot, steamy showers feel great in the winter, but keep in mind that hot water accounts for about one-third of your energy usage.
- Set ceiling fans to blow upwards. Most ceiling fans can be set to turn in clockwise or counter-clockwise. When they blow downward, they create a cooling breeze; when they blow upward, they circulate the warmest air that rises to the top of the room.
- Have your heating unit serviced when the weather starts getting cool. Maintenance and cleaning greatly improve energy efficiency and promote a healthier atmosphere in your home. If the heater hasn’t been serviced in a while, the savings should outweigh the cost of the appointment (renters should ask their landlords for a service appointment).
- Ask your utility company about an energy efficiency audit. Many will come for free to detect air leaks and other problems that drive up energy bills and offer you practical solutions.