On these long cold winter nights, there’s a howl being heard that’s not coming from the wind. It’s the howl of horrified customers opening their utility bills during this record breaking cold season. And if you believe Punxsutawney Phil, this winter isn’t ending anytime soon.
It shouldn’t have been a surprise. The Farmer’s Almanac predicted this. Unfortunately, I haven’t given the Farmer’s Almanac much thought since 1975. And after the shock of these past few months subside, there’s a good chance I won’t give it much thought again. So before we forget, now is the time to enact some steps that will help to bring down energy costs for whatever time remains in this current brutal season, and be prepared for a repeat of this type of winter in the future.
Service your Heating System Regularly
Make sure that your heating system is cleaned, inspected and serviced regularly by a qualified technician. A clean, well maintained system operates more efficiently and will require less fuel and energy. Also, remember to frequently change air filters to keep your unit working as efficiently as possible.
As tempting as it is to bump up the thermostat when the temperature goes down, set your thermostat at 68 degrees during the day and 60 degrees at night. Turning the thermostat back 10 to 15 percent eight hours a day can trim seasonal costs up to 10 percent. This may mean wearing all of those great sweaters and cozy socks you got from Aunt Bess this Christmas! Investing in a programmable thermostat will take care of having to manually make these adjustments daily.
Many homes use ceiling fans to help keep the house cool in the summer. But ceiling fans are also great for circulating hot air in the winter. Many ceiling fans have directional controls that adjust the direction that the fan blades turn. We all know that hot air rises. Use this to direct the warm air that is near ceiling down into the lower parts of the room. This will help keep rooms cozier at a lower heat setting. Also make sure your attic is insulated properly, so whatever hot air does rise stays in the home.
Prevent Heat Loss
Look for places around the home where heat can escape. Seal air leaks around windows and doors by using weather strips or caulk. Storm door can help keep heat in, as well as thermal or double paned windows. If you can’t afford to upgrade your windows, use a plastic window insulation kit or insulating drapes. If using drapes, make sure you keep them open during sunny days to warm your rooms, but close them at night to keep heat in. Also, if you have window air conditioners, don’t leave the units in during the winter months. If you can’t remove them, enclose the unit with an air conditioner cover to stop drafts.
Heating Vents and Radiators
Make sure that drapes and furniture are not covering any heating vents in the home. You want to make sure heat flows as freely as possible.
Replace traditional light bulbs with CFLs, Compact Fluorescent Light bulbs, or Energy Star LED bulbs. These bulbs use 75 percent less energy than traditional bulbs and last 10 to 25 times longer.
Use power strips throughout the house to plug in lights, televisions, small appliances or electronics. Turn the power strips off when you are not in the room or when you leave the home.
Phantom Energy Use
Electronic devices continue to use electricity to power peripherals, such as remote controls or clock displays, even when they are turned off. This standby power loss is referred to as “phantom” or “vampire” use. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, this is responsible for approximately 5 to 10 percent of annual energy cost. Advanced power strips cut standby power while offering all the same features as standard power strips. Even without an advanced power strip, computers should always be put in hibernate mode when not in use, or powered off completely.
According to energystar.gov, every appliance comes with two price tags: what it costs to take it home and what it costs to operate it each month. Energy Star appliances use 10 to 50 percent less energy than standard appliances to operate. Because it is estimated that appliances comprise 20 percent of energy costs, replacing existing appliances with Energy Star rated appliances will bring down your monthly usage and lower your bill.
By taking the appropriate steps now, you will be in a better position to weather your energy bills the next time a long, cold winter comes around. So instead of being the winner of the “who has the biggest bill in the world” game, you can be the winner of the “who has the smallest”.