Mark Redus lives in Michigan with his wife and two kids. He writes about home improvement tips as well as strategies to save money and energy.
Now that we’re in the dead of winter, you may have noticed a spike in your energy bills. Thankfully, there are ways to reduce those bills and still stay warm and cozy through the spring thaw. Just because your heater is working overtime, though, doesn’t mean you can’t make an impact on these costs. The Energy Information Administration expects home energy costs to rise 13% this winter to an average of $679, so if you’re not already looking for ways to cut your bill, now is the time. Check out these six hot tips for reducing your winter heating costs.
1. Get a Home Energy Audit
Many providers offer free in-home assessments of your home energy costs. If yours does, a representative can come out to your home, perform a complete inspection, and suggest a variety of ways to cut your expenses. For example, if you’re losing a lot of heat due to poor insulation, you can make some home upgrades to fix that. You should also keep all your blinds and drapes open during the day to let the sun work its magic.
2. Keep Those Ceiling Fans Spinning
Just because summer’s over doesn’t mean you should turn off your ceiling fans. Keeping them on in the winter can also help reduce your bills, as long as they’re rotating in a clockwise direction. That way, the heat that rises to the ceiling gets recirculated, so your furnace won’t need to cut on as frequently.
3. Buy a Programmable Thermostat
A mid-range programmable thermostat costs about $30, and is around $170 for installation – but don’t be fooled by the initial cost. This investment pays for itself in a little over a year, according to ENERGY STAR. After that, it’s pure savings. If you have wireless Internet in your home, look for one that’s wi-fi enabled so you can control your home climate from your mobile device.
4. Insulate Your Water Heater
Insulating your water tank reduces the cost of heating water, to the tune of as much as 9%, according to the Department of Energy. Nothing fancy is required – you can do the job for about $20 with a blanket or water tank jacket from your local home improvement center. Either of these can be affixed to the tank with duct tape. Just make sure to cut out holes for the controls, and you’re good to go.
5. Use Your Fireplace
If you have a fireplace, don’t be afraid to keep your home warm at night with a good old-fashioned fire. Not only is it cost-efficient, the fire’s crackle and glow can turn even a boring night at home into a truly romantic evening. Stack your firewood in a criss-cross pattern with plenty of open spaces packed with old newspapers for a slower, more efficient burn. Also, don’t forget to keep the flue closed when your fireplace is not in use, as heat can escape.
6. Close Off Rooms
If you have a guest bedroom, game room, or area of your home that rarely gets used, keep the doors shut and close the heating register to the room. There’s no point keeping a room warm if it isn’t getting a lot of use – just be sure to open things back up if you have company coming.
Let’s say you’re able to reduce your winter energy bills by $50 per month for five months. That’s an extra $250 in savings. If you’re in debt, put that toward your balances. If not, you can use that money to beef up your retirement savings, emergency fund, or your kids’ college savings plan. Conserving on winter home energy bills is a great way to save money, but using that newfound surplus to your best advantage is even better.
What ways can you think of to save on winter energy bills?