5 Steps to Lower Your Winter Energy Costs

Did you know that January 10th is National Cut Your Energy Costs Day?  While it may give you a chuckle to hear that (they have a holiday for everything these days you know!), it’s actually a great time to think about what you can do to help the environment – and reduce your monthly overhead – this winter and all year long.  Here are 5 ways that you can lower your energy costs:

  1. Unplug your devices.  I already hear the eye rolling on this one, but hear me out.  Do you realize that even if you aren’t using your computer, watching TV or charging your phone that those devices are still using electricity?  Whether it’s the automatic remote or that blinking light that tells you our device is ready or plugged in, you are paying for these items to be on stand-by.  The solution?  Just unplug what you aren’t using!   According to EnergyStar, the average household wastes about $100 per year to power devices that are simply plugged in and not in use.
  2. Maintain your furnace/air conditioner.  We rely so much on staying comfortable in our homes and offices that we sometimes forget there are simple things we can do to save money and energy at the same time.  One is to make sure you properly maintain your furnace and/or air conditioning systems.  The simple act of changing the air filter could lower your energy consumption by 5% to 15%.  How often you should change it really depends on your system and usage, but a good rule of thumb is to check it every month or so.  If there’s a thin film of dust, it’s time to change it.
  3. Batten down the hatches.  One of the biggest expenditures homeowners and renters make year in and year out (besides the mortgage or rent) is utilities.  A good portion of those bills may in fact be attributed to hot (or cold) air escaping from your home!  Windows and doors that aren’t sealed properly, fireplaces that let the majority of hot air escape up the chimney, and poor insulation are the usual suspects.  Take the time to walk through your home to determine if you need to replace or reseal your windows.  Check into converting your old wood fireplace to gas burning to increase energy efficiency (it radiates heat into the house instead of up the chimney!). In addition, take a look in your attic to see if you have proper insulation installed.  Also consider closing off vents in rooms that you don’t use so you aren’t heating empty space.
  4. Turn it down and bundle up.  Need some simple and less expensive ways to cut your energy costs?  How about turning the thermostat down to 68 in the winter months and just putting on a sweater?  If you are a little more ambitious, you could also install a programmable thermostat that will turn the temperature down when no one is at home, or you are nice and cozy under the covers.  Think about opening the curtains and blinds during the day to let the sun naturally warm your rooms and then closing them at night to keep the heat in.  The opposite is true in the summer – keep the air conditioner at a higher temperature, close the curtains during the day and, if there is a breeze, open the windows for some nice cross-ventilation.
  5. Install energy-efficient appliances.  Another big drain on your energy costs are your old appliances.  Whether it’s your refrigerator, dishwasher, washer and dryer or even your water heater, there are a couple of things that you can do to ensure they last a long time and save on energy costs.  First, check to see how old your appliances are.  Today’s appliances are much more energy efficient than they were 20 years ago, so if your refrigerator or washer is approaching that age, maybe it’s time to replace it with something a more efficient.  The second thing you can do, and I mentioned it earlier, is to properly maintain your appliances.  We sometimes treat these items as furniture and forget that – just like your car – they need to have a “tune up” every once in a while to ensure they are operating properly.  Not only will that save you in energy costs today – it will most likely save you in emergency replacement costs tomorrow.

Of course, how much you save on your energy bill is dependent on the effort you put into it.  So, what is your pledge to energy efficiency this National Cut Energy Costs Day?  What will you do with the money you save?

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