The cooler winter weather gives many of us a much-appreciated break from the summer heat, but this is not the case for your HVAC system. Cold weather means our heaters are running – sometimes constantly – to give us relief from the coldest winter days. You might have noticed that this has made your energy bills higher. Fortunately, there are several ways to lower your electric bill this winter. Find out why your bills could be higher this winter and what you could do to save money on your next one.
Why is my electric bill so high in the winter?
- You’re home more. There’s nothing like cold weather to make us want to stay in our warm, comfortable homes. By spending more time at home, we’re using lights, heat, TV and other electronics to keep us warm and entertained. Winter break means kids are home from school, which increases electricity use.
- Temperature drops. In most of the United States, the coldest days of the year are around mid-December to late January, which results in more work for our heating systems. The larger the gap between the outside temperatures and the inside temperatures, the harder your system has to work to keep the temperature inside warm and toasty.
- Holiday decorations. The holidays are often a time for a plethora of festive lights and other energy-consuming decorations. The extra lighting can take a toll on your electricity usage, especially if you’re an enthusiastic lighting display artist.
How to save on your electricity bill in winter
- Upgrade your thermostat. A programmable thermostat will let you customize your heating schedule to save money, while a smart thermostat gives you even more energy-saving options and allows you to control your HVAC system from anywhere with your smartphone.
- Lower your thermostat. You could save up to 10 percent a year on your heating and cooling bill by setting your temperature back 7°-10°. In the winter, we recommend setting it to around 68° when you’re away or asleep. Try an experiment with your family and see how much you can comfortably lower your temperature.
- Check your filters. Clean or change your filters on a regular basis to maintain proper airflow and keep your HVAC system working efficiently. You should also make sure you are using the right filters for your system.
- Don’t block your air vents. Make sure your vents aren’t blocked by furniture. Clear space around vents will help better circulate warm air.
- Avoid heating uninsulated rooms. Don’t bother heating places like garages, crawlspaces or other uninsulated areas. These rooms don’t need heat most of the time, and they lose heat much quicker without insulation.
- Get a tune-up. Call a professional to make sure your heating system is in good health and working as efficiently as possible.
- Check your insulation. Good insulation helps keep you comfortable year-round. One of the most important places to have sufficient insulation is your attic. In the winter, proper attic floor insulation prevents warm air from rising out of your home.
- Use smart lighting habits. LED bulbs use 75% less energy and last 25 times longer than incandescent bulbs. Be sure to turn off the lights when you leave a room.
- Seal your windows and doors. If you suspect your windows and doors are causing a draft, try weather stripping or replacing the seals. Test your seals with this trick: put a dollar between the door or window and the seal, and close it. If you can easily pull the dollar out, it’s time to replace the seal.
- Conserve in the laundry room. Doing laundry can use a lot of energy. The washer and dryer alone use energy to operate, but both also use heat. To keep costs down, try using these appliances and their heat elements as little as possible. Wash and dry full loads and try washing as much as possible in cold water. If you can, hang your laundry to dry. This will also reduce wear and tear on your clothes.
- Adjust your water heater. The recommended temperature for most water heaters is 120°. If your water heater is set too hot, it will not only waste energy, but can be a safety hazard.
- Insulate your water heater and pipes. Covering your water heater tank with an insulating jacket is especially important if it’s installed in an unheated area of the home, like an attic or garage. Insulating accessible sections of hot water pipes is another easy DIY job that will save a little energy.
- Unplug unused electronics. Standby power accounts for an average household energy cost of $100 a year. Use surge protectors to easily turn these electronics all the way off and prevent them from using standby power.
- Check your refrigerator. Is your refrigerator set at the right temperature? If it’s too cold, it could be costing you money. Check with the manufacturer to find the recommended temperature. Additionally, make sure your refrigerator door is not letting cold air escape and making your refrigerator work harder. You can use the dollar seal test here as well.
- Snuggle up. Wear warm clothes, wrap yourself in a blanket and drink some warm tea or soup.
- Use rugs. They help insulate your floors and make your feet feel warm and cozy.
- Enjoy the sun’s natural heat. Open the drapes when the sun is out to warm your home during the day, and close them at night for added insulation.
- Keep the garage door closed. Retain warmer air on the garage-side wall of your home by keeping your garage door closed to prevent cold air from coming in.
- Reverse your ceiling fans. Turn your fan clockwise and set it on a low speed. Rather than creating an airflow that makes you feel cooler, your fan will push warm air downward, making you feel warmer.
- Close your chimney damper. Fireplaces keep us warm and toasty this time of year, but remember to close the damper when you’re done to prevent warm air from escaping – and cold drafts coming in.
- Insulate your outlets. Cool air streaming in around your electrical outlets? Buy inexpensive, self-adhesive foam gasket covers at your local hardware store and install them yourself to stop the drafts.
In these cold temperatures, you can find energy savings and better ways to stay warm in many nooks and crannies of your home. Direct Energy’s Usage Insights tool shows you where your electricity use is going and how you could save.