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Winter’s officially here, and with it typically comes a spike in your electricity bill. Winter brings some of the coldest days of the year in the United States. This means we’ve got those heaters blasting, trying to keep ourselves warm and cozy.
In addition, we’re watching TV more and using other electronics to entertain us. The days are shorter, and we’re use our lights more often.
The holidays can also mean we have more people over at our houses. Children are on winter breaks, guests are over, and we have all those awesome decorations and lights that we have to keep lit.
All of these things mean the that electric and heating bills can get out of control in a hurry. Luckily, there’s dozens of ways for you to try and save money on your electric bill.
We’re going to provide you a number of ways for both renters and home owners to the keep the cold out and the money in your pockets. Keep reading below to find 15 more ways to keep those electric bills down and try to save some money during these winter months.
Tips For Renters And Owners
1. Dress For The Season
It might seem second nature to turn up that thermostat as soon as you get home from a long day of work, but if you want to save some money this winter try bundling up with a nice seater or blanket first instead.
Heating your house is one of the biggest factors in your electric bill, and when you turn up that heat you’re essential increasing that bill. According the California Energy Commission’s Consumer Energy Center, you can save 5% on your heating cost for every degree you drop your thermostat.
They recommend that you use a maximum setting of 68 degrees on your thermostat during the winter. This small change could save you between 5 and 20% on your heating bill every month.
If you want to want to save some money with out making any big changes, try setting the thermostat a few degrees lower and instead getting some extra use out of that ugly Christmas sweater. Pair that with the Snuggy you got two years ago and some holiday socks and you’ll be just as warm without adding the extra dollars to your electric bill.
2. Don’t Heat An Empty House
While we’re on the topic of the thermostat, the U.S. Department of Energy claims that you can save nearly 10% a year on your heating bills by turning your thermostat down 7 to 10 degrees for eight hours each day.
This means that if you turn that temperature down while you’re away at work you can save a ton of money, especially during the winter when it’s taking a lot more energy to keep that cold house warm.
In addition, consider turning the temperature down while you’re sleeping as well. If you set it at 68 degrees during your waking hours, think about lowering it another 7 to 10 degrees while you’re asleep.
A small investment in some warm flannel sheets or a cozy comforter will more than make up for the small change in temperature while you’re dozing.
If you have a programable thermostat, set it to a lower temperature while you’re out of the house at work, or while you’re in bed, and keep at a slightly warmer temperature while you’re at home and during the weekends while you’re using the family rooms.
You can even set it to turn up just before you get home from work so the house will be at a comfortable temperature when you get home.
3. Use The Sun
We are lucky enough to have a nice natural heater right in the sky. Try to use the sung to the best of your advantage in the winter months to get some free heat (and brighten your day when you’ve got nice weather).
If you have any rooms that face the sun during the day make sure you open any blinds or drapes to let the rays shine in and warm up those rooms for free. (In the winter these will usually be south facing rooms.)
Letting the sun heat up some, or even all of your house will cut down on the amount of work that your heating system will have to do to keep your home or apartment at a livable temperature.
It’s important to make sure that later in the day you close any drapes or curtains to retain some of the heat as day turns to night. If needed, don’t hesitate to invest in some blinds, curtains, or drapes that will work as insulation to keep that heat from escaping through your windows in evening as it gets cold outside.
4. Minor Door And Window Sealing (More On This In The Home Owner Section Later)
If you’re renting your house or apartment you probably don’t want to spend too much money on sealing and caulking the doors and windows when you’ll only be getting minimal benefit from your work. It might be worth while to first find out if the owner or landlord would be willing to do some improvements in order to better prepare the residence for the winter months.
Even if the owner or landlord doesn’t want to invest in sealing the house in preparation of winter, it might be advantageous for you to do some small improvements if you’re the one that’s going to be paying the electric and heating bills every month.
There still are some cheap and effective solutions to save you some money on your electric and heating costs.
If you have a poorly fitting door, you can buy an inexpensive door sweep from Amazon, or any home improvement or hardware store.
A door sweep is a simple device that fits on the bottom of the door and helps to seal the gap between the door and the floor. Installing one can help to keep the cold air out and the warm air in, and can really help with those electric bills in the winter.
Poor seals around the windows can also be one of the biggest sources of heat loss in your home. If your windows are drafty and you can feel the cold air getting in, it’s costing you money every month. Adding some foam weather stripping around the leaky areas of your windows is cheap and very easy, usually it’s just a peel and stick process that will save you money in both the summer and winter months.
Another great option is to apply a window film during the winter. There are many brands that you can buy online or at any home improvement store. Window films are easy to install, and can great reduce the heat loss from you windows at an affordable price.
If you don’t want to go through the hassle of adding a film or installing weather stripping, invest in some heavy drapes or curtains that will cover up those windows to try and retain some your heat and keep money from escaping out of those windows.
5. Close Off Rooms You’re Not Using
If you have a larger house or apartment with multiple rooms, make sure that you’re not wasting money by heating rooms or areas that you’re not using. It doesn’t make sense to be paying to heat garages, attics or basements if you’re rarely going to be in those areas.
Like the exterior doors and windows, make sure any doors or entry ways to the garage are well sealed and closed up. The same goes for the attic or basement if you happen to have one in your house. Make sure there are no huge gaps that might need to be sealed, and if those rooms have their own thermostats, make sure to turn those down if you are not going to be spending much time in those rooms.
If you have other rooms in your house that you’re not using, such as spare bedrooms, an office, or a work room, make sure you close those doors as well. If the rooms isn’t being used, there’s no need to spend the money to heat it.
6. Use Those Ceiling Fans
When you think of heating, cleaning fans aren’t the first things that come to mind, but they can actually be quite useful in heating your house or apartment.
Many ceiling fans have a switch which will allow you to reverse the direction of the blades. Because warm air rises, the hot air from your heater will naturally go to the celling first. If you reverse the fan, you can blow that warm air down to the rest of the room and circulate all that heated air through the room.
Use the low setting to keep that warm air down were you need it. Since you’re trying to save on the electric bill, make sure you turn the fan off when you’re not home or no longer in the room.
In addition, using exhaust fans like those in your kitchen and bathroom remove hot air from your apartment, so make sure that you use those sparingly while trying to keep that heated air inside.
7. Swap Out Those Lights
If you still have loads of the old style light bulbs in your house, it might be worth it to go ahead and upgrade your lighting, especially if you also have tons of holiday lighting up in the winter months.
LED’s also have the added benefit of emitting less heat, which makes them a safer alternative to have inside the house.
If you do have holiday decorations up, whether inside around the tree, or outside around the house and the windows, make sure you turn these off when you leave the house and when you go to bed, as even with the less expensive LED bulbs you’re still paying for the electricity to light decorations that aren’t being enjoyed while you’re asleep or away.
8. Get A Humidifier
Our homes tend to get very dry in the winter. All those stoves and heaters tend to take moisture out of the air. Did you know that moist air actually holds heat better?
Get a humidifier and use it during the winter. The moist air will help to retain the heat, and make you’re apartment feel warmer and more comfortable. Having some house plants will also help to increase the humidity in your home.
A humidifier will also help with the dry skin that people sometimes experience in the winter.
9. Get Some Rugs
If you have hardwood floors, adding some rugs around the house will help with insulation and holding the heat in better. Having a few rugs will help to make your house feel warmer without having to change anything in your day to day routine.
10. Close That Fireplace
Using a fireplace is a great way to heat your home without adding cost to that electric or heating bill, but you need to make sure that after you’re done that you close the damper.
Most fireplaces have a damper inside the chimney that can be opened and closed. If you’re not closing the damper on your fireplace when it’s not in use you’re essentially letting all that heat escape right through a giant hole in your house. An open damper creates a draft that pulls the warm air right out of the room.
If you own your house, make sure that the chimney flue is properly sealed to keep hot air from escaping during the winter. For residents that never use the fireplace, consider having the chimney sealed completely to prevent heat loss.
If you’re not sure how to do this chimney work properly, please contact a professional, as improperly attempting to seal a chimney could result in a fire hazard.
11. Adjust The Water Heater
It’s wonderful to have hot water at your fingers with the simple turn of a knob, but remember that the water heater is constantly heating that water, whether you’re using it or not.
If you have access to the water heater, try turning the temperature down to 120 degrees. In addition to saving you money on electric costs, it will also keep the temperature in a safe range to keep it from burning anyone in the household.
According to the Department of Energy, a 10 degree reduction on the water heater can save 3 to 5% on your electric bill. Many water heaters are set by default to 140 degrees, so a 20 degree production can go a long way in saving some money.
12. Check The Fridge And Freezer
It may seem counterintuitive to be checking the fridge and freezer in the winter, but making sure that these settings are right can help to further lower your energy costs.
If your refrigerator or freezer is set too low, or if the doors are not sealed correctly, you’re essentially throwing money away.
The typical recommendation is 38 degrees for your refrigerator and 5 degrees for your freezer, but you should consult the recommended setting from your appliance manufacturer to be sure you have the right setting for your particular appliance.
13. Unplug For Awhile
Even if you have your devices turned off, many electronics around the house are still sucking electricity while they’re not in use, a phenomenon know as standby power
The EPA estimates that unused electronics waste as much as $10 billion dollars yearly. Standby power costs the typical household around $100 a year.
Items such as cable boxes and video game consoles are constantly using power as long as they’re plugged in. If you have these items plugged into a power strip, consider turning the power strip off before leaving for a vacation to conserve some electricity.
If you do own your home, there’s even more ways to lower your electric bills, especially in the winter months.
14. Smart Appliances
Smart appliances are a great way to get control over your house and get some real savings on your electric bill.
Getting a smart thermostat will easily let you program start and stop times for your heating and cooling systems. You can lower the temperatures when you’re gone or at work, and set it to turn on so the house is warmed before you get home. They can also be programmed to control the temperature while you are sleeping.
Smart thermostats such as Nest claim via their website that after homeowners install their thermostats they can cut costs by as much as 15% and reduce heating usage by 10 to 12%. This can add up to a savings of nearly $145 a year.
15. More Sealing
If you have heating pipes, ducts, or hoses in your house, whether in your basement, attic, or garage, you should check to make sure that they are properly sealed and not leaking hot air through any cracks or holes.
Try to seal any leaky areas with metallic tape to make sure that hot air is actually getting to the places you want it and not leaking anywhere along the way. There are also aerosol sealants that can be used for this purpose. You want all of these ducts to be as airtight as possible.
If you have baseboards that are on exterior walls, check for any leaks there as well. Cracks or gaps that are allowing cold air into the house should be filled with caulk or foam to seal the entry points for cold air.
If there are any locations in the house where pipes or vents enter from the outside, whether in the attic, basement, or garage, make sure that these are also properly sealed with caulk or expanding foam to keep the warm air in, and the cold air out.
Also be sure to check for leaks and gaps around plumbing fixtures such as sinks and bathrooms, and around areas like chimneys.
One of the final pieces of the puzzle to really lower that electric bill is make sure your home or apartment is well insulated. This of course means walls and ceilings, but there are plenty of other places that might need to be checked.
If you have exposed heating hoses or ducts running through a cold attic, basement, or garage, make sure that these are wrapped with insulation to keep that hot air hot until it actually gets to its destination.
Make sure that the water heater is insulated as well. It costs a lot to heat all that water, so don’t let that money go to waste by letting that hot water get cold because of poor insulation. The same goes for water pipes, which should be wrapped with insulated foam to keep the water warm as it travels through your plumbing system.
Make sure any attic, basement, and garage doors are insulated, keeping the cold air where it belongs.
One often overlooked area is electrical outlets. Homeowners can purchase foam gaskets which can fit behind electrical switches and outlets and insulate those areas from the winter cold and save month on that electrical bill.
17. Make Sure Your Ducts And Vents Are Clean And Unblocked
Once everything is nice and insulated, you need to make sure that the warm air is actually going to get to its destination.
Check that all your pipes, hoses, ducts, and vents are totally clean and unblocked. Getting your warm air efficiently around the house will lower your electric bill and keep your house nice and toasty.
Be sure to check all the filters that might be in your air or heating system. Dirty and clogged filters not only restrict airflow, but they can also be unhealthy. Replacing these filters will be better for your health, and your wallet.
18. Upgrade Appliances
Finally, if you can afford it, check into upgrading the appliances around the house.
New Energy Star refrigerators for example use 50% less energy than those manufactured 15 years ago, and 15% less than those without this efficiency rating. The same goes for washing machines, dishwashers, and furnaces.
If it’s time to get that new appliance, consider the cost savings that might be gained by getting an energy saving machine. In some situations there are even tax rebates that can be gained by getting newer energy efficient appliances, which may wind up saving you money in the long run.
Even if you follow every rule outlined above, you’ll still never get that electric bill down to zero. But, with a few minor changes, you can save a lot of money, especially during the winter, with minimal cost and effort. Reducing your electric bill is not only good for your pocketbook, but also a great way to help the environment.