Winter Is Coming: How to make your utility bills chill out
If you live in the Midwest, you probably caught winter’s first blanket of snow last week. Maybe you even flashed back to the Halloween blizzard of 1991 and thought, It won’t be that bad again … will it? It might be time to batten down the hatches: The Farmer’s Almanac predicts cold temperatures and above-average snowfall for the northern half of the United States this winter. (The Almanac traditionally claims about 80% accuracy — not bad for having published since 1818!)
We can’t control the snowfall, but a harsh winter doesn’t have to mean high energy bills. Here’s a fresh-fallen pile of tips and tricks to keep your heating spending low without compromising home comfort:
1. Set temperatures back on your thermostat during sleeping hours and while the house is empty.
The U.S. Department of Energy estimates about a 1% savings on your heating bill per each degree you set back your thermostat over a period of eight hours. More people are working from home right now, which might reduce the number of hours you can comfortably set the thermostat back, but you can still save energy while you sleep — when you’re snuggled up with blankets in bed, there’s no need to heat the entire house.
If you don’t have one already, consider getting a programmable or smart thermostat, which can keep a preset schedule, so you don’t have to remember to adjust the dial.
2. Close and seal your fireplace damper.
Santa might come down the chimney, but heated air escapes up it. If you have a fireplace, make sure the damper is closed and sealed properly to reduce air loss. In a well-insulated house, an open or unsealed damper can increase energy use by up to 30%, which can be nearly $200 per year.
3. Check for (and fix) other sources of air leakage.
Do you have weatherstripping on your outer doors to stop heated inside air from escaping through the cracks? Has your home been air sealed for leaks? The answers to these questions may significantly impact your home’s comfort and energy spending as the temperatures drop this winter.
4. Make sure your walls are adequately insulated.
Homes constructed before 1970 were typically built with little to no wall insulation or the wrong type of insulation material. If your home doesn’t have enough insulation, you may be losing heat energy right out of your walls — and it could be needlessly chilly inside. Lack of insulation can also cause you home to be too hot in the summer. Adequate insulation can help keep your home comfortable year-round.
All of these things are discussed in a typical home energy audit, which may also provide you with materials like thermostats and door weatherstripping. An audit is a great way to learn about how your home uses energy as well as identify some quick fixes to help decrease your energy spending. The recent snowfall may have prompted you to dig out your parka and insulated boots, but we invite you to take it as inspiration to schedule a home energy audit with Home Energy Squad.
If you want to learn more about how your home uses energy, from common issues found in Midwest homes to state-of-the-art innovations in efficient technology, check out CEE’s Home Energy Hub for helpful posts about relevant topics written by energy experts.
U.S. Department of Energy: Fall and Winter Energy Saving Tips
Home Energy Hub
Home Energy Squad