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With the recent winter storms hitting the US, many states not used to living in frigid temperatures are dealing with extended periods of extreme cold weather. Unlike residents of the Northern cities such as Boston, many people in the south are scrambling to keep warm. With energy cost soaring, and winter blowing in on North Carolina and even the most southern states, homeowners are looking for ways to save on their heating and cooling bills.
Here are some tips that will help you to save money:
What You Can Do To Keep Your Energy Costs Down Today
Lower the temperature on your water heater to the warm setting (120°F). This will save you money and will ensure that you avoid scalding your hands.
See if your water heater has an insulating blanket surrounding it. An insulating blanket around your water heater may seem like more than you need if it’s indoors, however, even indoors, an insulating blanket will pay for itself in one year or less! Heating costs can account for at least half of the average family’s energy bill in the winter.
Make a plan to have your furnace or heat pump looked at by a professional. Annual maintenance can save you hundreds of dollars and ensure that your furnace or heat pump lasts many years. Watch for the ENERGY STAR® label when replacing your system this label let’s you know you are getting an appliance that is rated to save energy. Talk with your family about additional ways to reduce your water heating bills. Water heaters account for 14%-25% of the energy consumed in your home.
Replace your incandescent lights with compact fluorescent lights (CFLs) or light-emitting diodes (LEDs) as soon as possible. Upfront costs for CFLs is more expensive, however, they can save you three-quarters of the electricity used by incandescent lights. The best bulbs to replace first are your 60-100 W bulbs that are used several hours a day.
Keep the lights turned off in unoccupied rooms of your home. You can also consider installing timers, photo cells, or occupancy sensors that will reduce the amount of time the lights stay on once you leave the room. Many people are upgrading their homes to Smart Homes – which utilize internet powered devices for control and convenience.
Turn off the monitor when it is not going to be in use for more than 20 minutes, and turn off both the CPU and monitor if you’re not going to use your computer for more than 2 hours.
Unplug any equipment that is a drain on your energy source when not in use (i.e. cell phone chargers, fans, coffeemakers, desktop printers, radios, etc.).
Install a programmable thermostat. These can be adjusted to temperatures and times according to a set schedule. This allows you to turn ensure that your system is running at optimum when needed and not running when there is no one home or at night.
During the coldest days, open the curtains on the south-facing windows during the day to let the sunlight naturally heat your home. Close them again at night to reduce the transfer of cold that comes in from the glass in the windows and around the window frame.
What You Can Do To Keep Your Energy Costs Down This Week
Buy a water-heater blanket from your local hardware store. Install low-flow showerheads, faucet aerators, and CFLs, as needed.
Rope caulk or add film to leaky windows to stop the air from flowing in. Add curtains to open windows.
Have a professional inspect your heating and cooling systems to determine if any replacements are justified, or whether a retrofit will allow them to work more efficiently to provide the same comfort, or better, for less energy. Older units will often use more energy.
Making your home energy efficient increases its value
What You Can Do To Keep Your Energy Costs Down This Month
Review your utility bills and target the largest energy consumer or the largest bill for energy conservation measures and make a plan to reduce these costs by replacing old appliances or changing habits such as turning out the lights or lowering the thermostat.
Insulate all of the hot water pipes in the house to prevent heat loss and save energy.
Insulate all heating ducts especially in unheated areas, like attics and crawl spaces. This reduces heat loss and saves you money. Keeping your heating ducts in good repair can prevent heat loss of up to 60%.
Identify and seal-up the major air leaks in your house, the ones that whistle on windy days. Check all the windows and doors, but also be sure to look at all of the utility cut-throughs for pipes, any gaps around your chimneys and even recessed lights in insulated ceilings, and unfinished spaces behind cupboards and closets can all be culprits allowing cold air into your home.
Hire an energy auditor. They will be able to use a professional blower to point out the worst cracks. The invisible cracks and holes around your home will definitely add up and sealing these usually unfound leaks can make a huge difference in your heating bill!
It cannot be said enough that to install a programmable thermostat that will set your thermostat back automatically at night is a huge energy saver.
What You Can Do To Keep Your Energy Costs Down This Year
If your walls aren’t insulated then you are losing an enormous amount of energy through your roof and walls. Hire a professional insulation contractor to blow cellulose into the walls to keep the heat in and the cold out. Bring your attic insulation level up to snuff as well and you will notice a huge difference in your heating bills.
Replace older, inefficient appliances. Even if an appliance has a few useful years left, by replacing it with a top-efficiency model can save you money and is generally a good investment. Particularly check the age and condition of your refrigerator as it is one of the heaviest users of energy in your kitchen.
It may be time to upgrade those leaky windows with energy-efficient models or to boost their efficiency with weatherstripping and storm windows or even film can help. The typical home can lose more than 25% of its heat through the windows alone.
Upgrade your computer equipment and your monitor. By replacing your desktop computer with a notebook computer and docking station, and your cathode ray tube (CRT) monitor with a liquid crystal display (LCD) or LED monitor you can save energy.
In the warmer months, you can reduce air conditioning costs by planting shade trees and shrubs around your house particularly on the west and north sides. This will keep the winter winds at bay.
Weather is a funny thing and you never really know what Mother Nature is going to do. As a homeowner, you want to be sure that you are prepared for anything from a hot summer sun to an unexpected snow storm.
3 More Ways to Keep Your Winter Energy Costs Down
Many of these tips were taken from the Consumer Guide to Home Energy Savings. For additional information on home energy conservation/efficiency measures, visit the Consumer Energy Center and the Home Energy Saver Answer Desk