A cozy warm house, holiday lights and home-baked cookies—we love these comforts during the winter. But, after the decorations come down and the cookies are gone, energy bills remain. With the average monthly electric bill totaling about $117, plus added natural gas and hot water costs, utility bills can spike in winter months. Reduce energy use and trim bills with these tips.
- Guard Against Heat Loss. Attic insulation is a cost-effective way to keep the heat in your home. Types of insulation range from blanket to spray foam and rigid material. Some require pros to install, but it’s worth the savings. The material’s ability to stop heat flow is measured by R-value, which typically ranges from R-30 to R-60. To get the right R-value where you live, consult an insulation contractor or check out the R-Values map from the U.S. Department of Energy. You also can add insulation to walls and basements to save money and heat.
- Fix Air Leaks Around Doors and Windows. Caulking and weatherstripping doors and windows to seal air leaks could shave more than 20% off your energy bill, according to the U.S. Department of Energy. Request an energy audit through the Building Performance Institute, Inc. or look for trouble spots yourself. Just shine a flashlight into the door and window edges. Then, someone outside can tell you where light shines through. While you’re looking for leaks, don’t forget to close the chimney damper when the fireplace isn’t in use!
- Change Air Filters. A dirty filter makes your heating system work harder and use more energy, which costs you more money. Simply changing your filter once a month—or, at the minimum, every 3 months—can help. It’s a small investment for potentially big savings. Don’t forget your annual service check on your HVAC system, too.
- Install a Programmable Thermostat. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Energy Star® Program, the average homeowner can save about $100 a year with a smart thermostat. It allows you to program it with your smartphone and save. For instance, set it to reduce heat while you’re at work and watch energy costs shrink.
- Turn Your Thermostat Down. Energy.gov recommends a mild 68 degrees Fahrenheit during the day and even lower while you sleep. And, dialing back the thermostat by 7 to 10 degrees from its typical setting for up to 8 hours can save you as much as 10% on your heating bill. That can be a little chilly for some of us, but all you have to do is grab a sweater and you’ll save big!
- Buy Energy-Efficient Appliances. Energy Star-certified appliances use from 10 to 50% less energy a year compared to standard appliances. They may even qualify for rebates. Check out the EPA’s list of qualifying products. Buying new appliances can be costly. If you need help paying for a replacement, consider a home equity line of credit if you have a mortgage or a personal loan from Navy Federal Credit Union.
- Set Your Water Heater to 120 Degrees. Most water heaters default to 140 degrees, but many households can still get plenty of warm water when lowering the temperature to 120. This single change can reduce your water heating costs by 10%.
- Put Ceiling Fans to Work. Ceiling fans warm a room as easily as it cools. Just flip a small switch so the ceiling fans rotate clockwise. This will cause air to be pushed upward, helping spread warm air throughout the room. Energy Star recommends lowering your thermostat when you warm a room with a ceiling fan for additional savings on your energy bill.
- Use Energy-Saving Light Bulbs and Holiday Lights. Although light-emitting diode (LED) lights generally cost more up-front, they last 25 times longer and use at least 75% less energy than incandescent bulbs. That means you’ll pay significantly less for electricity over a year if you use LEDs. And, if you use LED bulbs in holiday lights, they have a lower risk of fire than traditional types, are break-resistant and can last up to 40 holiday seasons.
At the end of the season, you may be surprised to see how these relatively small changes can help you save money.
This content is intended to provide general information and shouldn't be considered legal, tax or financial advice. It's always a good idea to consult a tax or financial advisor for specific information on how certain laws apply to your situation and about your individual financial situation.