12/21/16 : Molly Morabito

Five ways to be energy-efficient this winter

Today marks the first day of winter. While it can be a fun season of playing in the snow or staying cozy at home with some hot cocoa, winter also often means higher utility bills. Simply heating your home can easily become one of the biggest expenses, so make sure to stay warm and energy efficient this winter season with five tips on how to offset the costs of heating.

1. Put on your ‘ugly’ holiday sweater and adjust your thermostat

No surprises here - heating accounts for about 45 percent of energy use during the winter months. A good trick to lower costs is to use a programmable thermostat, which can save you as much as 10 percent on your utility bills. Simply set it to the 68°F while you’re at home, and lower the temperature while you’re asleep or away from home, making sure temperature is comfortable if you have pets. Make yourself some tea, snuggle up under your blankets, and enjoy a cozy winter. Learn more about heating in this infographic.

2. Seal those leaks

Perhaps the most important item on your to-do list is sealing air leaks. There are obvious air leakage spots, such as under-the-door draft, but you would be surprised to know that other small leaks make a huge difference. As Alliance President Kateri Callahan reminds us in a recent radio interview, in a typical house that hasn’t been properly sealed and insulated, all the little leaks can be equivalent to leaving open a 3-foot-by-3-foot window. The U.S. Department of Energy has a full list of potential air leak spots, along with useful advice on insulating your home.

3. Winter cleaning

Distribution losses - what’s lost while air moves from your furnace through ductwork to the vents - often amounts to 30% of your home energy bill. Consider having your air ducts cleaned this holiday season. For a simpler fix, changing or cleaning your filters regularly will help increase the efficiency and life of your furnace, helping you clean up on your energy bills.

4. Embrace the chill

Water heating can account for 14 to 25 percent of the energy used in your home. Make sure to lower the temperature on your water heater to the recommended setting of 120 F. Also, using hot water to do your laundry is one of the biggest energy wasters. Switch to cold water and save up to 11 percent on your water heating costs.

5. Winterize your vehicle

Make sure your car is ready for the winter months by checking your air filter, and fluid levels as well as tires for proper tread wear and inflation. Ensuring your vehicle is ready for the colder weather will keep you warm (and safe!) on the road and helps improve your fuel economy savings.

6. Bonus: tax credits are expiring!

Make sure you are aware of these tax credits you can claim if you made home energy efficiency improvements during the year. Hint: It is possible to get as much as $500 back for qualifying installations in 2016.