Brrrrrrr! The weather’s getting colder (some cities have already seen snow!) and that means that many of us will soon be seeing a big spike on our monthly electricity bills. But it doesn’t have to be that way – there are plenty of simple ways to minimize the amount of energy needed to heat your home and save a bundle of cash doing it. From properly insulating your house to simply dressing for the season, check out our 10 easy tips to cut your home’s energy use – you’ll thank us when you receive your next electricity bill!
Get an energy monitoring device/power strip to understand where you are using the most energy
It’s hard to cut down on your energy when you don’t even know how much you use. That’s why we recommend getting an energy-monitoring device like this Kill-a-Watt that will allow you to visualize and quantify how much electricity you’re actually consuming. At about $20, this smart little device can save you hundreds – a nice return on investment if you ask us.
Get a smart power strip and/or start to unplug electronics that aren’t in use
Just because you aren’t using a charger, television or computer doesn’t mean it isn’t still sucking up electricity (and costing you money). If you saw that your faucet kept running water even though you’d turned it off, you would probably do something about it and your electrical outlets should be no different. One way to deal with the problem is to simply unplug your electronics when they aren’t in use, but if that seems cumbersome, you can get an eco powerstrip which automatically cuts off the supply of electricity to computers and other gadgets when they are off.
Switch all of your light bulbs to LEDs
When the days get shorter we end up switching on our lights a lot earlier than we would in the summer, so it’s more important than ever to make sure your bulbs are as energy-efficient as possible. Our recommendation? Go with LEDs. You may have heard that CFLs were the way to go a few years back, but that is so 2007! LEDs are the future of low-energy lighting, and the future is finally here. High quality LED bulbs can now be found at many major retailers at reasonable costs. Not only are there LED bulbs now that consume 80 percent less energy and last 25 TIMES LONGER than incandescents, they’ve been much improved over LEDs of a few years ago, and are now designed to provide soft, warm ambient light, rather than the harsh bluish light that was common with LEDs a few years back. One more tip regarding LED bulbs – brace yourself and don’t go into sticker shock when you realize that LEDs bulbs cost about 10X as much as old-fashioned incandescent bulbs (Philip’s Ambient LED 75W bulb retails for $39.95). Keep in mind they last 25X longer, so that means that you won’t ever have to buy new lightbulbs, plus you’ll save a ton of money on your electricity bill. See, it all works out in the end!
Also worth checking out as we approach December? LED holiday lights!
Invest in a smart thermostat
Ask most people if they would like to pay to have their houses heated during the day when they weren’t even there, and you’d probably be met with a resounding “of course not!” But if you don’t have an old-fashioned thermostat, that’s probably exactly what’s happening in your home. With a smart thermostat, like the Ecobee, you can program your heating and cooling systems to only turn on when you need them to. Look out for a similar device, the Nest, from the makers of the iPod next month.
Dress for the weather and turn your thermostat down a few degrees
This may seem like a no-brainer, but you can save a ton of cash if you simply dress a little warmer during the colder months. If you get in the habit of wearing sweaters, slippers and blankets around your home, you can turn your thermostat down a bit and still be completely comfy. It’s winter – dress for it!
Get an energy audit (or Do It Yourself with a spot thermometer / infrared gun)
Getting an energy audit is a lot like getting a check-up at the doctor – a professional auditor can check out your whole home to spot any problem areas where heat could be leaking out, and recommend exactly what you can do to fix them. And while we wouldn’t recommend WebMD-style self-diagnosis for your health issues, if you want to take a stab at DIY energy auditing using a spot thermometer or infrared gun, we say go for it! These handy tools detect exactly where your home is leaking heat so that you can patch up those areas with insulation.
Seal up all of those home leaks with insulation
As we learned in our Green Home Expert Series from organic architect Eric Corey Freed, you can never have too much insulation – the more the better! Typically, ½ of your home’s heating and cooling (a huge chunk!) will escape through walls, windows, the floor and the roof, so if you don’t have proper insulation in those spots, you’re going to be spending a lot more to heat your home than is necessary. After you find out where your heat is leaking from (using the infrared gun we described on the page before this), spend some time bulking up on your insulation in those spots. Click here for different types of insulation and where they should be applied.
Invest in well-insulated, super-sealed windows
Single pane windows are so 1960s and many homes leak most of their heat out of windows. In order to minimize the amount of toasty winter heat leaking out of a drafty window, make sure that all of your glass is at least double-paned. Triple pane or double pane with argon or some sort of insulation material between the glass is even better. Equally important to this is that the trim of the window around the glass is sturdy and well insulated, so that you do not have just a layer of metal between you and frigid winter air.
Use blinds, shades & window treatments effectively
You may not realize it, but you can significantly warm a room (or cool it down) by what you choose to do with your window treatments. During the daytime, if you have bright sunlight coming directly through your window, this will heat up a room significantly. If you want to heat up the room (say it is winter), roll those blinds up and let in the light! Likewise if it is summer and you are trying to cool this same room down, roll a thick, sunlight blocking shade over the window. If you are trying to keep a room warm at night (like a bedroom), put the shades or curtains down, so that heat doesn’t leak out the windows.
Turn down your heat and hang out in the kitchen when you cook and bake
There’s nothing that can take the winter blues away like some hot soup or delectable baked goodies and if you’re going to be turning on your oven any way (presumably you use that stove relatively frequently?), why not turn off your heat and hang out in the kitchen for a bit? Back in the olden days, people used to huddle near their hearths for warmth, and there’s no reason why we can’t follow their lead. It’s true that our ovens need electricity (or gas) to operate too, but if you’re going to be whipping up some cookies, cakes, soups or casseroles anyway, might as well repurpose all of that hot air to keep yourself warm too. Besides the money you save by not double heating your home, the sweet and savory smells wafting through the air are another nice incentive!