Halloween is just around the corner, which means temperatures are starting to drop and winter… is coming.
That means it’s time for another round of frightfully helpful energy savings tips for fall and winter. Get ready while we count off the top 10 best ways to slash those energy bills this year.
1. Hunting Down Leaks, Drafts & Chilly Spots
Since it’s almost Halloween, you might be concerned about drafty ghosts in nooks and crannies you didn’t even know existed.
The first step is to hunt them down!
One bright way to do this is with an infrared thermometer. It can show you any cool areas in windows, walls and ceilings that need plugging up before the cool weather rolls in this year.
Then seal the places where the air leaks with caulk or weatherstripping.
Common places where drafts find their way in:
- Utility cut-throughs for pipes
- Gaps around chimneys
- Recessed lights in insulated ceilings
- Unfinished spaces behind cupboards and closets
- Doors and windows
And don’t forget your electrical outlets!
Pro tip: Focus on sealing leaks from the inside more than the outside.
Another frightfully clever trick: Insulate your attic with loose-fill insulation to reduce heat loss and keep the warm air below the attic.
However, the best piece of advice we can offer: get a professional energy audit because it’s impossible to find all the leaky spots in your home.
2. Cut the Phantom Power Load
Don’t let phantom loads raise your electric bill to bone-chilling heights!
According to Energy Star, the average U.S. household spends more than $100 each year to power devices that are turned off. Nationally, phantom power accounts for more than 100 billion kWh and more than $10 billion in energy costs each year.
That’s right, you don’t even have to be using an appliance or electronic device for it to sucking up energy. So get out there and unplug them!
- Computers, cable boxes, game consoles and other household electronics can be notorious energy vampires. They often suck down energy even when they’re not being used and you think they’re “off”, and drive up your energy bills.
Action guide: Home Idle Load Self-Diagnosis and Action Guide (PDF)
Pro tip: use power strips for your largest energy vampires and snap them off when you leave the room.
3. Release Trapped Heat with Ceiling Fans
Fans are not just for summer anymore.
Warm air rises and can often stay trapped in the ceiling -exactly where you don’t need it to feel warm.
Especially if you have high ceilings, fans are a sneaky little tool to keep the air circulating in your home.
So installing ceiling fans is a good investment year round.
Pro tip: It’s all about the motion of the blades. Counter-clockwise in the summer to bring warm air up, clockwise on a low setting in the cooler months to push warm air back down.
4. Winterize your Fireplace
Tell Santa to find another way in this year. If you have a fireplace, consider plugging it up if you never use it.
But if you use it regularly, keep these points in mind this winter:
Close your damper! Unless a fire is burning, keeping the damper open is like keeping a window wide open during the winter; it allows warm air to go right up the chimney.
Reduce heat loss by opening dampers in the bottom of the firebox or open the nearest window about an inch and close doors leading into the room.
Be on the lookout for free firewood signs to keep your heating costs extra low.
Pro tip: Do a quick match test to find out if your chimney is leaky.
Light a match, hold it around the seal of your fireplace damper to check for leaks. If the flame is drawn up to the flue then you have a leak. And now that you know you can get your chimney company to come seal it for you.
5. Be Thermostat Savvy
If you’re already an energy savings pro, you should know by now to keep your thermostat lower in the cool months and higher in the warm months.
But how… much cooler in the winter?
Glad you asked. To save as much energy as possible, keep your thermostat at around 62 degrees Fahrenheit (17 degrees Celsius).
Turning your thermostat back 10° to 15° for eight hours can save around 10% a year on your electric bill.
Pro tip: buy a programmable thermostat like the Nest. It will be easier to control the temperature, especially if you have a tendency to forget to turn your thermostat down while you’re away or at night.
6. Banish Energy & Heat From Unused Rooms
Focus on the room you’re occupying.
You don’t need to heat the entire house if everyone is in the living room.
Make sure to close the vent in the rooms you’re not currently in as well as the doors to those rooms.
Here are a few extra tips to keeping warm while you give your thermostat a break.
- Use space heaters in the room you’re currently occupying.
- Wear sweaters and keep extra blankets by the couch and beds.
- Use an electric blanket.
- Try warming up at night time with hot liquids like tea, cocoa, or cider.
- Use a humidifier in your home to keep the air warm and cozy.
That goes for lights as well. Consider motion sensing lights and dimmers to make it easier to conserve light energy.
7. Power Up with LED Lights
And while we’re talking about lights, consider upgrading to LED lights throughout your home.
It’s a bright idea any time of the year, but especially during the fall and winter months when the lights stay on longer.
It’s also the season of endless lights. Anybody say holiday decorating?
You could save a lot of energy and money by switching to LED string lights.
While the initial cost will be higher, you’ll end up saving in the long run, especially if your lights are on every day for months during the holidays.
Pro Tip: switching to LED in just a few rooms of the house is enough, especially for rooms that are used often like the kitchen or living room.
8. Dust the Cobwebs Off Heating Systems
Get a tune up on your furnaces and heat pumps and replace your filter once a month or as needed.
The best thing you can do for your heating systems is to get them serviced, but here are a few additional tricks.
You can turn down the temperature of your water heater to a warm setting. This means around 120°F.
Not only will you save energy, you’ll avoid scalding your hands. And while you’re at it, insulate it to keep the warmth in.
Another way to maintain a moderate setting is to use a programmable thermostat specially designed for use with heat pumps.
For wood and pellet burning heaters, clean the flue (chimney) vent regularly and clean the inside of the appliance with a wire brush periodically to ensure that your home is heated efficiently.
Pro tip: if you have radiators, you can reduce heat loss out the window by using a piece of tin foil behind your radiator will help reflect heat back into your home. Or if you’re too good for tin foil, purchase some stylish radiator panels!
9. Seal Off the Windows
No the zombies aren’t here yet, but you can cover your windows as if they were to minimize heat loss out the windows.
A few tricks:
- Use heavy curtains and blinds over the windows. Or in a pinch, use heavy blankets.
- Use a heavy-duty, clear plastic sheet on a frame or tape clear plastic film to the inside of your window frames during the cold winter months. Make sure the plastic is sealed tightly to the frame to help reduce infiltration.
- Install tight-fitting, insulating drapes or shades on windows that feel drafty after weatherizing.
Pro tip: use the power of the sun. Open curtains on your south-facing windows during the day to allow sunlight to naturally heat your home, and close them at night to reduce the chill you may feel from cold windows.
10. Everybody Loves the Sun… Except Vampires
While we’re on the subject of the sun, consider switching to solar energy this year.
You can slash your electric bills while enjoying the benefit of clean green energy for many years to come.