You may think it’s inevitable – the cooler weather means that your home’s energy bills will rise. Whether you are turning up the heat or turning on the holiday lights, energy usage tends to increase during these cooler months. Yet, there are many steps you can take — from small adjustments to major modifications — to stay warm and use less energy this winter. Here are a few simple tips to get you started.
Don’t Heat an Empty Home
If household members are at school and work during the day, or you are traveling for the holiday season, adjust your thermostat to limit the amount of wasted heat. While you can do this manually each day, programmable and smart thermostats can automatically keep your house cozy when it counts and save energy when everyone’s away.
The selection of smart thermostats is ever-expanding. Many keep track of how much you would save based on your region, size of home and heating type. In many cases, this investment results in significant savings.
Some utility companies also offer free programmable or smart thermostats to encourage their customers to use energy wisely. Check with your local utility to see what programs they offer.
Control the Air Flow
By sealing air leaks in a home, an average household can cut 10 percent of its monthly energy bill. Use caulk to seal any cracks or small openings on surfaces such as where window frames meet the house structure. Check your weatherstripping in exterior door frames and replace any that is deteriorated or cracked.
Sealing windows and doors will help, but the worst culprits are cutouts for pipes or wires, gaps around recessed lights, and unfinished spaces behind cupboards and closets. Do-it-yourselfers can buy material that expands to fill the gaps and prevent air from escaping.
Use Energy-Efficient Holiday Lights
There is a wide and growing selection of holiday lighting options on the market today, meaning their energy usage and operating costs also vary. The most efficient lights are the light emitting diode (LED) options, which produce very little heat and last much longer than traditional lights. While the initial price of LED lights is often higher than less efficient lights, they use a lot less energy, meaning long-term energy savings. LED lights also typically last about 20,000 hours, which means you will not need to replace them as often. Plus, connecting your lights to an automatic timer helps you control the amount of energy that is being used, as well.
Seek Professional Help
The best way to know exactly what will reduce your home’s overall energy consumption is to hire a professional energy auditor to evaluate your home and identify any inefficiencies. In addition to showing you where to tape, caulk and seal, the auditor might also suggest improvements that would require a professional. Adding attic insulation, upgrading to an energy-efficient HVAC system, or installing high-performance windows are sizeable investments, but they can have a dramatic impact on your home’s air quality, energy efficiency and overall comfort.