Looking for ways to lower your electric bills this winter? Welcome to the club! As much as I love winter weather, I’m not a fan of seeing my electric bill burn through my monthly utility budget. As someone who works at home, I know my productivity drops when I’m shivering all day, so I look for other ways to lower electric bills besides turning the heat down.
Ways to Lower Electric Bills This Winter
Sure, there are some obvious things to do like turning off lights when they’re not in use, switching to CFL or LED bulbs, and drinking hot beverages — they’re small steps, but every little bit helps. For even bigger savings, check out these 11 tips.
1. Check for leaks and seal
The US Department of Energy estimates that up to 30 percent of a heating bill is due to air leakage. This is particularly true in older homes where settling of the foundation can lead to gaps around windows and doors. To discover gaps in your home, Lifehacker advises turning on kitchen and bathroom fans.
Now you can check for air leaks by holding a lit incense stick close to the spaces around the edges of your home windows and doors, looking for a noticeable change in the smoke rising from the lit incense stick. If there is an air leak, the smoke will waiver and be drawn inwards by the outside air that is finding its way into your home. If the smoke remains undisturbed, then you can assume that there are no air leaks in that specific area.
2. Use heat you’ve already paid for
Clothes dryers, dishwashers, and ovens all put out heat during use. You’ve already paid for that heat so why not let it warm up your home a bit? It’s as easy as leaving the appliance door open for a few minutes after use so the heat enters your home. Between the dishwasher and oven, your kitchen will feel cozy even on chilly nights.
Don’t overlook the heat from showers and hot baths, too. Indoor winter air is dry air, so you don’t need to run your bathroom fan after showering to keep mold and mildew away — just open the bathroom door and let that hot, steamy air improve your indoor humidity.
3. Line dry clothes indoors
Line drying indoors during the winter helps in two ways: you aren’t paying to run the dryer, and you’re adding static-busting humidity to your indoor air. You can install a retractable clothesline that disappears when not in use, or hang clothes on a drying rack. Either way, you’ll be saving money and prolonging the life of your clothes, too.
4. Open and close window coverings on time
Opening the curtains or blinds on sunny winter days captures free light and heat. This applies in particular to south-facing windows. The best time to open window treatments to capture winter sunlight is 9 am, according to PG&E, and you should turn your thermostat down a couple of degrees at the same time. Since curtains act as insulation, be sure to close them by 3 or 4 pm to keep the warm air indoors.
5. Use the smallest appliance for the job
Don’t use the oven when the microwave will do. A microwave oven uses up to 80% less energy than a standard conventional oven. Don’t have a microwave (or don’t like using them)? A crockpot is equally low-energy and can heat your kitchen while it sits on the counter cooking dinner all day.
6. Newer furnace? Leave vents OPEN
The Old School advice said to close off unused rooms and shut off their air vents to lower electric bills in winter. That advice is no longer considered the way to go for owners of newer, energy-efficient furnaces. That’s because newer systems rely on unrestricted air flow throughout all of the ducts in your home to remain balanced. Shutting a room’s vents off can force your system to work harder, and possibly cause it to break down.
7. Have your furnace serviced
Even new systems need regular servicing. An annual inspection (which costs roughly $60-80) involves cleaning the system to improve efficiency, inspecting it for leaks in the ducts, and checking for carbon monoxide issues. If you’re handy and have the time, you can do much of the work yourself with this DIY furnace-cleaning tutorial from The Family Handyman.
8. Program your thermostat properly
If you don’t have one yet, a programmable thermostat is a fantastic way to lower electric bills this winter. For every 1° Fahrenheit you lower your thermostat you save roughly 3% on your electric bill, and the more you set it back, the more you save. At first, you might feel a bit chilly: layer up and within a couple of days you won’t notice the difference but your bank account will!
Most thermostats feature different settings for weekdays and weekends, along with day and night. If you typically run your thermostat at 72°F, lowering it to 68°F will automatically reduce your bill. Reap even bigger savings by setting it to 60°F during the 8 or so hours you’ll be in bed under warm blankets, and then have it crank the heat up to 68°F before you wake up. Repeat that cycle for the hours you’re gone to work or school and you’ll have reduced your energy bill by roughly 25%!
9. Clean your refrigerator coils
The refrigerator is one of the highest energy consumers in your home. If you haven’t cleaned the coils on yours lately, it’s using more energy than necessary. Refrigerators use their coils to offload heat from stored foods along with the appliance’s motor.
The dust, lint and pet hair that accumulates on coils acts like insulation and keeps the heat in, much like wearing a sweater on a hot summer day. Clean coils can offload heat more efficiently, so the condenser doesn’t have to work as hard. The result is lower energy use. As a bonus, cleaning the coils helps your unit last longer, too!
10. Close the fireplace damper when not in use
There’s something wonderful about a roaring wood fire on a cold winter’s night, but wood-burning fireplaces are horribly energy inefficient. While in use, up to 90% of the fire’s heat is lost up the chimney. Meanwhile, it’s also pulling your heater-warmed air out of your home to fuel the combustion. You won’t notice that when sitting in front of the fire, but you’ll feel the chill in other rooms of your home — and again when you see your energy bill.
If you can’t resist the lure of relaxing in front of the fire, be sure to close the chimney’s damper the rest of the time. If your fireplace has glass doors close them, too, for another barrier against heat loss. Also, have your chimney professionally cleaned annually. According to the government’s Energy Saver site, this reduces heat loss and helps protect your family from residential fires and carbon monoxide.
11. Rearrange your furniture
Last but not least, consider winter a great time to rearrange your living room furniture. Moving sofas and favorite chairs away from drafty windows will protect you from chills that might otherwise lead you to crank up the thermostat. Set out cozy throw blankets so the family can snuggle up, and lay down a thick area rug to keep feet warm, too.
Just be sure you don’t block air vents or cold air returns, so your new arrangement doesn’t turn into a burden on your furnace!