The best things about winter: snowfall, icicles, and hot cocoa.
The worst things about winter: dirty snow, ice…and high power bills.
Have you ever noticed that your power bills seem significantly higher in the winter? The U.S. Department of Energy has predicted that, this winter, our electricity costs will increase by eight percent, our natural gas costs will increase by 12 percent, and our heating oil costs will increase by 17 percent. These predictions are based on the cold temperatures we are expected to face in the coming months.
The good news is that there are several steps you can take to enjoy winter in a warm home without breaking the bank. And, importantly, without making a detrimental impact on the environment.
**Turn down your thermostat when you leave for the day. **When the temperatures are below freezing outside, our first instinct is to turn up the heat. However, running your heater one degree warmer increases your utility bill by three percent. This means that for each degree you add on your thermostat, you could be paying on average $3-4 more per month. To save money without freezing in your home, simply turn down your thermostat 5-7 degrees when you leave for work. We promise you will still be able to warm it up when you return, and you’ll be thrilled to save the extra cash.
**Bundle up indoors. **Not only is this easy and free, it’s cozy. Wear sweaters, socks, blankets, and anything to keep warm while at home instead of blasting your thermostat. There are also countless health benefits to sleeping in cooler temperatures. Sleeping in a room between 60 and 66 degrees can lower your risk of metabolic diseases because you burn more calories at night in the cold. It also helps you fall asleep faster and stay asleep, according to research in Australia.
**Use your ceiling fan. **The idea that ceiling fans are solely made to cool homes is a common misconception. Because heat rises, ceiling fans actually help distribute warm air evenly around your home. When you are running the heat in your apartment or house, make sure to turn on your ceiling fans as well. They will help redistribute the heat you are already paying for. To get the best results, make sure your ceiling fan is running on low in a clockwise direction.
**Invest in area rugs. **If you happen to have wood or tile floors in your home, they tend to stay much colder than the rest of the home. Putting rugs on the floor helps trap some heat in the lower part of your home, preventing all of it from just rising to the ceiling. Instead of fully replacing a wood floor with carpet, just purchase area rugs for places in your home that tend to stay cold.
Windows and Doors
**Weatherproof your home. **More than 20 percent of the heat in your home can escape from windows and doors. Rooms with several doors and windows tend to let the heavier air from the outside enter your home, where the air is warmer and lighter. To avoid this from happening, you can caulk your drafty entryways and windows for less than $10.
**Purchase door draft guards. **For the areas where you cannot caulk, like the bottom of doorways, use draft guards. These cost less than $20 each, but will save you hundreds of dollars over the cold months.
**Completely fill your dishwasher. **This is an efficiency tip you can use in any season. However, it may be especially useful to you during the colder seasons when you are in your home more often. Make sure to completely fill the dishwasher before running it. Using a dishwasher already saves you almost nine-times the amount water you would be using if you were washing them in the sink. And when you completely fill your machine, you also save on the electricity use required to run multiple loads with fewer dishes.
**Keep your oven closed and the lids on your pots. **Keeping the heat in your oven and pots while cooking is an extremely important in saving energy, especially when the temperature in your house is cooler than normal. When you open your oven door, you could potentially lose up to 50 percent of the heat inside. The same goes for using pots and pans without lids. When you cook your food on a stovetop without a lid, not only does the food not cook as fast, but it loses some of its flavors. With a lid, you could save about one to two minutes of cooking time. The condensation on the top of the lid also enters back into the food, speeding up the cooking process and cutting back on your overall energy use.
**Change your lightbulbs. **With winter time comes shorter days, and longer nights. With fewer hours of daylight to light our homes and apartments, we find ourselves turning on the lights far more often than normal. Fortunately, LED bulbs last three times longer than CFL bulbs and over 20 times longer than incandescents. Using LEDs instead of traditional bulbs could end up saving you $100 or more. Even if you only change a few of your most-used lights, you can still save over $50 a year.
**Think in bright colors. **Decorating your home with light, bright furniture helps the sun reflect off of your living spaces, trapping more light - and heat - in your home. Using lighter curtains and less heavy fabrics will also make your main living areas brighter without any added light.
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**Put rugs in your bathroom. **If you have the room, put several rugs in your bathroom. Most likely, your bathroom floor is made up of tile or a similar material. Adding rugs to a floor that does not normally retain heat helps circulate hot air through your space.
**Install a low-flow showerhead. **Many of us look forward to long hot showers on cold winter days. Thinking of cutting that shower time sounds impossible when it is below freezing outside. However, a low-flow showerhead cuts your water usage without you having to lose any time in the shower. They can be as cheap as $10. By installing a more efficient showerhead, you can save water and dethaw at the same time.
**Unplug your devices. **Because of the freezing temperatures, we tend to stay inside more often than not. This means our appliances and lighting are being used more than they ever would be on a normal day. To save energy, make sure that all devices are unplugged when they are not in use. To make your life a little easier, plug your most frequently used devices into a power strip so you can shut them off all at once. It also helps you avoid any electrical fires that may occur when appliances are plugged in.
**Dry two loads of laundry in a row. **And, finally, save your laundry for weeknights. By doing all of your laundry at once, and at night, you save money during non-peak hours. Also, the dryer stays warm for the next load, so it takes much less energy to get to the temperature needed to dry.
Even with the temperatures below freezing, you can still enjoy winter without hurting your wallet. There are many ways to cut your utility bill during the winter months in every facet of your home life. Winter does not have to be a struggle when you have home efficiency on your side.