11/19/13 : Michael Timberlake

Top 5 Ways Keep Warm and Save Energy this Winter

Feet warming by the fire during the winter

The holiday season is almost here, and if you’re not prepared, higher energy bills are on their way with it.

EIA is predicting a likely 9-13 percent increase in heating costs for most homes this winter.  Combine that with the desire to have a Griswald-like holiday display and many Americans are facing big energy bills this season. But don’t lose your holiday spirit yet!

If you’re smart and take our advice, your energy bills will drop faster than the LED ball in Times Square!

1. Deck the Halls with LEDs

The holiday season wouldn’t be complete without Americans lighting up the neighborhood with the brightest and most colorful displays possible. But 40 consecutive nights of illuminating your front lawn adds up.

LED holiday lights use up to 90 percent less energy and can last up to 40 holiday seasons. And the costs to operate make traditional bulbs look like energy hogs. At 12 hours a day for 40 days, a string of incandescent C-9 lights would cost about $10.00 while the LED C-9 lights would run you just barely over a quarter. That’s $10.00 just per string!

In fact, if all holiday light strings sold this year were ENERGY STAR certified, Americans would save about $45 million a year.\

Take simple steps like caulking windows, sealing leaks around chimneys and recessed lighting, and sliding draft guards under your doors and you can save up to 20 percent on heating costs.  

An insulated home is a warmer home

2. Plug Leaks and Drafts 

Stop throwing money out the window.  Your home loses most of its heat to drafts and air leaks (inside and out).

Take simple steps like caulking windows, sealing leaks around chimneys and recessed lighting, and sliding draft guards under your doors and you can save up to 20 percent on heating costs.  

 

3. Maintain Your HVAC System

Make sure to clean or change your furnace filters regularly. A dirty furnace filter will slow down air flow, making the system work harder to keep you warm and costing you more money.

Also, consider getting a winter tune-up.  Just as a tune-up for your car can improve your gas mileage, a semi-annual or yearly tune-up of your heating and cooling system can improve efficiency, saving you money and making your home more comfortable. The federal government’s ENERGY STAR website can help you find a qualified contractor. 

Man programming thermostat to save energy

4. Let Your Thermostat Think for You

Don’t waste money heating an empty home.  Install a programmable thermostat and schedule your home’s heat to lower when you are away or asleep and turn back up when you are returning home or waking-up. 

If programming a thermostat seems like too much of a hassle or your schedule is too irregular to follow a set program, consider a smart thermostat (like the Nest) which allows you to change settings from anywhere (with internet) and can even learn your behavior patterns and set a schedule for you!

When used strategically, programmable thermostats can save you nearly $180 a year and even more during the winter months (larger homes can expect even bigger savings).

If a new thermostat isn’t an option, consider lowering your thermostat by just one degree, which can reduce heating costs up to 1-3 percent.  

Woman opens curtains to let sunlight into heat home

5. Invite the Sun in 

Yes it feels like the Sun has abandoned us during the winter, but that doesn’t mean we should ignore it during these shorter days.

Open curtains and other window treatments on your west-and south-facing windows during the day to allow sunlight to naturally heat your home, and save anywhere from 2-12 percent.

 

BONUS: Remember to Look for the ENERGY STAR Label

If you are undertaking a major home remodel or new build, consider installing ENERGY STAR-qualified HVAC equipment and windows.  ENERGY STAR-labeled windows can cut heating costs by as much as 30% compared to single-pane windows, while increasing indoor comfort and lessening fading of home furnishings.

Also look for the ENERGY STAR label when replacing or buying appliances, electronics, lighting and many other types of products to save up to 30% in related electricity bills. See www.energystar.gov for more information.