11 Ways to be More Energy Efficient This Winter
Are you tired of high heating bills in the winter? There are plenty of proven methods that you can use to lower your energy use and cut down on those bills, while also helping your appliances last longer. Here are some ways to help you save money.
Move Thermostat Settings Down Three Degrees
This is a bit of advice that really works: Lower your thermostat by three degrees and you will save money on your heating bills. The exact amount varies, but 3 to 4 degrees tends to save you around 10% on a monthly energy bill. That's significant! While three degrees may not be missed once you acclimate, you can always pull on a sweater when necessary.
Replace Old Weather Stripping
When gaps around windows and doors allow cold outdoor air into your home and warmed air to exit, you're losing money! A National Institute for Standards and Technology study found that office buildings (typically well-sealed) lose around 13 percent of heating energy to air infiltration. So to save on these types of losses in your home, make sure your weather stripping is properly maintained, and that there are no insulation gaps in your attic or foundation. This will keep your space energy efficient.
Adjust Your Water Heater Temperature
If your conventional water heater's temperature is set too high, you could be losing lots of energy keeping that water warm when no one is using it. Take a look at your water heater and use your manual (or search online) to find where the energy efficient temperature dials are, if you don't already know. Gas water heater tanks tend to have one bottom control, while electric water heaters may have two different sensors to tweak. And turn the temperature setting down to 120 degrees F. And this temperature will still get your clothes and dishes clean.
Open Up Your Blinds
A lot of solar energy can pass through standard residential windows. And use that to your advantage! When then sun is out and bright, open up your window coverings and let the solar energy efficient heat in.
Replace HVAC Filters
Two things happen when you don't replace your furnace filter for winter. First, the old filter quickly accumulates dust and loses its ability to trap new particles, which means your house will be dustier. Second, air flow slows down, which means it's less energy efficient and your furnace will have to work harder to heat your home (this is also a problem with AC). It's important to note the type and size of filter used in your HVAC system so you can buy a replacement supply. And most home HVAC filters are rated for up to 40 microns. If you go with a finer filter, it may also slow down your air flow. Try to replace filters every 3 months.
Use LED Lights for Holiday Decorating
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Invest in a Smart Thermostat
You have probably heard about smart thermostats like Nest. And you can control them with your phone, and allow them to sense your movements and start lowering the temperature in your house when it senses that no one is home. This can save money–around 10-12% of your heating bill, according to studies.
Remodel Your HVAC for Zones
If you are really committed to improving energy efficiency, consider installing a zone heating and cooling system. With these systems, you choose which zones of the house to heat and which to leave unheated. And in larger houses in particular, this allows you to save money, since people tend to congregate in only one or two rooms. Note that merely sealing up your vents will not work, since this tends to make your HVAC system work even harder.
Use Your Fireplace More
Traditional wood-burning fireplaces aren't very energy efficient (most of the heat goes right up the chimney). But inserts and gas fireplaces can be very efficient methods of heating your home. And pay attention to how many square feet your fireplace can heat and how efficient the method is when buying or upgrading.
Upgrade Old Furnaces
Furnaces have efficiency ratings, called the AFUE (annual fuel utilization efficiency rating) which indicates how much power is converted into heat. The more, the better. Today's gas-powered furnaces have AFUEs around 90% or even higher. If your furnace's AFUE is down in the 70s, you can save a significant amount of money and be energy efficient by upgrading to a new model.
Clean and Maintain Your Refrigerator
If you're like most people, your refrigerator probably sees a lot of use during the winter holidays, and that can waste a lot of energy. However, you can prep your fridge with a few maintenance tips. First, make sure the refrigerator temperature is around 38-40 degrees F. in most compartments. This is plenty cool enough for most foods. And in refrigerators, spaced-out food stays cool more easily, while in the freezer packing food close together is more energy efficient. You may also want to use a refrigerator calculator to see if you can save money with an upgrade. And always remember that if your refrigerator has coils, keep them free of dust.