While Winter doesn’t officially start for a few more weeks, we’re already feeling a chill here in the Midwest… and I hear other parts of the US are experiencing lower than normal temperatures, also. No time left to think about cold-weather energy efficiency projects: it’s time to get them done if you want to cut your heating costs. As in most years, doing nothing will cost you more: the U.S. Energy Information Administration is predicting residential electricity prices in the U.S. to rise 2.2% compared to the Winter of 2012-13.
Many of the projects that come immediately to mind probably involve big changes that will pay for themselves over the long term: a more efficient furnace, new windows, energy-saving appliances. As we’ve noted many, many times over the years, though, you don’t have to spend a bundle to lower your heating bills this Winter, nor do you have to hire a whole team of contractors and planners. I’ve done some digging in our archives to pull together some of the cheapest, easiest, and most effective ways to stay comfortable this Winter that won’t require a second mortgage.
Focus on getting the biggest bang for your buck: Blinds Supermarket’s energy saving home graphic notes that over 80% of a home’s energy use comes from heating: heating air in the Winter, and water year-round. So, while efficient light bulbs and energy-saving power strips certainly help, focus your efforts on your furnace and water heater for the biggest savings.
Wrap that rascal: Your water heater, that is. Jay Harris of the Home Depot notes that putting an insulating blanket on your water heater is a “no-brainer”: a $30 investment will increase the efficiency of one of your biggest energy users.
Fill the leaks: Your parents likely warned you about the costs of heating the outdoors as a kid; air leaks in your home are doing just that. Invest in some caulk, weather stripping, and a few other cheap supplies, and keep the heat indoors. For about $60 and a little elbow grease, you can make your home’s envelope much tighter.
Use the right amount of heat at the right time: Think it’s sensible to heat an empty house? Probably not, but that’s what many of us do with traditional central heat and thermostats. A programmable thermostat provides the right amounts of heat at the right times… and save up to $100 per year.
Heat the room you’re in: Space heaters often get misused and add to your energy bill, but if you use them judiciously (and safely, of course), they can help you save money. In short, lower the temperature on the central heat, and focus on heating the room you’re using. If that room is small, you can even try something different like a candle heater.
Got other tactics you use to save heat and money? Share them with us…
The interactive energy home was designed by Blinds Supermarket, and this post is generously supported by Hillary’s Blinds.