15 Low- and No-Cost Ways to Reduce Your Winter Energy Bill

As you dig out your sweaters and winter coats and prepare to ward off the cold, you also should think about ways to ward off higher energy bills in your home.

More than 90 percent of American households can expect to pay more to heat their homes this winter because of higher fuel costs, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration.

How much more you pay between Oct. 1 and March 31 will depend on how you heat your home.

  • Homes that heat with natural gas are expected to pay an average of $679 this winter – up 13 percent from the previous year.
  • Homes heated with propane can expect a 9 percent increase, to $1,666.
  • If you use electric heating, your costs are projected to nudge up 2 percent, to $909.
  • If you use heating oil, your costs are expected to dip 2 percent, but you’ll still pay a whopping $2,046 on average.

Money Talks News founder Stacy Johnson has information in the video below on simple, low-costs steps you can take to cut your winter heating bill. Check it out, then continue reading for more details on energy-saving tips.

None of these changes require big investments to put them into place, yet they can add to big savings for you.

Focus on the furnace

Home heating is a big energy user, accounting for 45 percent of your bill.

  • You can save 5 percent to 15 percent of your heating costs by lowering your thermostat by 10 or 15 degrees for eight hours a day, according to the U.S. Department of Energy. That’s up to 1 percent in savings for each degree you lower your thermostat.
  • Because of limitations with various forms of heating, that might not be the best choice if you have a heat pump, electric resistance heating, steam heating or radiant floor heating. If you have one of those systems, just lowering the thermostat a degree or two, and leaving it there, will save you money in the long run.
  • Be sure to replace your furnace filter regularly — monthly depending on the kind you buy. Some filters run as little as a couple bucks, but don’t help clean the air. More expensive filters do a better job of removing particles from the air. You can find a review of various types of furnace filters at BobVila.com.

Water heaters

Water heating is your second-biggest energy user, accounting for 18 percent of your bill.

  • Make sure the thermostat on your water heater is set at 120 degrees. That cuts the amount of heat lost into the surrounding area, according to the nonprofit Residential Energy Services Network.
  • Wrapping your older water heater in an insulation jacket and insulating your hot water pipes also will help save you money.

Cracks and gaps

There are plenty of places where warm air can seep out of your house, while the cold creeps in.

  • Thoroughly check the interior and exterior of your house for cracks and gaps. Pay particular attention to areas around chimneys, furnace flues, pipes, electrical outlets, windows and doors.
  • You can fill in small spaces with caulk, and use spray foam to seal bigger openings.
  • By installing a door sweep under exterior doors, you’ll prevent cold drafts from blowing in. They’re often available for free when your utility company has a community event.

Attic and basement

  • Your attic may be insulated, but it’s easy to overlook the attic door. Adding a layer of insulation to the door will prevent heating from rising into that space.
  • While you’re in the attic, check your ducts. If you find any rips or holes, use mastic or foil tape to seal those.
  • Then check the basement. RESNET recommends checking the basement rim joist at the top of the basement wall, where the cement meets the wood frame. It’s often a source of heat loss, so be sure to add insulation.

Windows

Inefficient windows can account for 10 percent to 25 percent of heating loss, according to the DOE.

  • Instead of a costly window replacement project, you can install window film that resembles plastic wrap and helps retain heat. The film is applied on the interior of your windows, and can be easily removed when spring rolls around.
  • Another way to reduce heat loss is to keep drapes closed at night or when the sun isn’t streaming in. The DOE says closing the drapes can reduce heat loss by up to 10 percent. When it’s sunny, open your blinds or drapes and let the sun pour in and warm your home.

Chimneys

Unless you’re using your fireplace, keep the damper closed. A chimney creates a draft, pulling air from the room. An open damper lets warm air – and your money – go up your chimney like smoke.

Ceiling fans

You probably don’t give a second thought to using ceiling fans in summer to keep your house cool. Most ceiling fans have a switch so you can set the blades to rotate in reverse, pushing the warm air that’s near the ceiling down toward the floor.

You can find a whole host of energy-savings tips you can put into practice all year long at Energy.gov or from RESNET.

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