9 Cheap Ways to Lower Your Winter Energy Bill
Now that the holidays are over, you’re probably settling in for the winter. But if you haven’t taken the time to properly winterize your home, then all those hours spent snuggling up on the couch could be driving your energy bill through the roof.
Winterizing your home might sound like an expensive proposition—and it certainly can be. But there are also plenty of ways to cut down on your energy costs without spending a ton of money up front.
1. Conduct Your Own Home Energy Audit
“If you’re winterizing on a budget, you should start by doing your own home energy assessment,” says Sarah Brown, a home safety expert with SafeWise.com (@SafeWise). “You need to find your greatest sources of wasted energy before investing in any winterization projects.”
She says that “finding out if your greatest energy losses come from insulation, lighting, heating and cooling or electronics will help you make a wiser investment.”
2. Lower Your Thermostat
Jim Chilsen, spokesman for the Citizens Utility Board (@cubillinois), says that “you can save up to three percent on your energy bills for every degree you lower your thermostat.”
Jim recommends that you “try setting the thermostat no higher than 68 degrees when you’re at home, and turn it down to 62 degrees or lower at bedtime. Just be careful: Drastically dropping the temperature isn’t good for your health, and anything below 55 degrees can freeze your pipes.”
Oh hey. That reminds us…
3. Insulate Your Pipes
If you’re trying to save money, the absolute last thing you want is for your pipes to freeze and burst. That could end up costing you thousands to repair. And taking proper care of your pipes might mean more than just keeping your thermostat at 55 degrees.
According to Peter Duncanson, director of systems development at ServiceMaster Restore, you can “avoid frozen pipes in unheated areas of your home, like basements and attics, by wrapping uninsulated pipes with foam or self-adhesive insulating tape. Any pipes closer to the exterior walls that are exposed, and any water pipes outside should be covered. A six-inch section of pipe insulation foam can cost as little as three dollars—thousands of dollars less than dealing with a burst pipe.”
Other methods to prevent pipe freeze that Duncanson suggests are to “allow kitchen and bath faucets to run slowly to avoid freezing and to open kitchen and bathroom cabinet doors so warmer air can circulate around pipes.”
4. Winterize Your Windows
Here’s a tip. If you can stand by your window and literally feel the cold breeze coming in from the outside, then your windows definitely need to be winterized. All that expensive warm air is leaking right out of your home, forcing your furnace to work over-time to catch up.
“You can buy a window insulation kit for $15 to $25 online or at your local hardware store. It should come with double-sided tape and plastic film for covering the inside of your windows,” says Jim Chilsen.
But buying the kit is only the first step. Luckily, Chilsen also has step-by-step instructions for how to use it.
- Clean the window frame with a damp cloth or rubbing alcohol.
- Apply one layer of double-sided tape to the window frame and remove the back cover.
- Unfold the plastic film that comes with the insulation kit. Adhere the plastic film to the tape starting at the top, move to the bottom, and then finish at the left and right sides.
- Grab a hair dryer. Use it to shrink the film to provide a better seal around the window and to work out wrinkles. The heat will seal the plastic and window together. Most insulation kits have multiple sheets of plastic, so you should be able to repeat the process for other windows.
- Optional: For extra insulation, place bubble wrap over the window, as a first layer, and then put the plastic sheet over that. Use packing tape to connect different pieces of bubble wrap.
5. Lower the Temperature for Your Water Heater
The little details can make a big difference. Take your water heater for instance…
Sarah Brown from SafeWise says, “Set your water heater to 120 degrees. Most manufacturers leave water heaters at 140 degrees. By turning it down your water heater won’t have to work as hard to heat up the cold water which will save you money.”
6. Take Care of Your Furnace
If you don’t want to spend the money on a professional furnace inspection, Roberts has some pointers:
- Check and replace the heating filters. Specialists claim it’s best to replace the filters every two to three months. These are not that expensive especially compared to the issues they may cause us if we leave them without proper maintenance.
- Spend some time cleaning the vents. Dust and dirt build up over time and this will make your system work inefficiently.
- Inspect the ductwork. Look for dirt or streaking that may be a sign of air leaks. These need to be sealed by a professional.
7. Insulate Your Doors
“The exterior doors in your home may have air leaks,” says Jeffrey Weldler, an Interior Decorating Expert at Vänt Wall Panels (@VantPanels).
“This means your furnace will run long, your HVAC system will be less efficient, and you will have to pay more for your heating bill. Even though this is more commonly found in older homes, it can occur in newer homes as well.”
His solution is to “pick up strip insulation to apply to the bottom of the door, and also push a rug against the door’s bottom to prevent the air from getting in.”
8. Check the Insulation in Your Attic
Hot air rises, right? So it’s probably not surprising that a poorly insulated attic can lead to massive heating loss. Luckily, Jim Chilsen has some solid advice.
“Look across your attic floor,” he says. “If the insulation is even with or below the attic floor joists, it’s time to add more.”
9. Use a Ceiling Fan to Increase Warm Air Flow
Chilsen also points out that you can “circulate the heat in your home with the help of a ceiling fan. In the winter, run the fan clockwise (from your position, looking up at it) to pull warm air down from the ceiling.”
Keeping cozy this winter doesn’t have to cost you a bundle. Follow these tips and stay warm longer for less money. Happy hibernation!
About the Contributors:
Sarah Brown is a home and community safety expert for SafeWise. She loves making the most of her free time by spending it outdoors and with family and friends.
Jim Chilsen is the spokesman for the Citizens Utility Board (@cubillinois), a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization that has been representing the interests of residential utility customers across Illinois since 1984.
Peter Duncanson is the Director of Systems Development for ServiceMaster Restore and Chairman of the Board of the Institute of Inspection, Cleaning and Restoration Certification. With over 30 years of experience in the industry, Peter holds many certifications and his expert knowledge on all things home-related helps readers take simple, yet highly effective steps to safeguard their home and their family.
Jason Roberts is a senior marketing specialist part of My Handyman Services team—a London based home improvement company. He has a degree in marketing from City, University of London.
Jeffrey Weldler is the Marketing Director and Home Design Expert at Vänt Wall Panels. Vänt Wall Panels are the most innovative and user-friendly wall décor system ever created. Vänt is inspiring living at its finest. They’re perfect for every room in the house, from the kitchen and bedroom to the living room and office. Learn more about Vänt by visiting Vänt Wall Panels.
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