Many people spend much of their time indoors during the winter. From holiday gatherings to fending off freezing weather, many homeowners find themselves using appliances at unprecedented levels. Along with keeping the household cozy, however, this extra usage can also lead to a spike in energy costs. Fortunately, you can take steps to conserve energy usage within the home. Whether you want to lower utility bills or protect the environment, these practices can help you use power sources more effectively. A look at the eight easiest energy-saving tips for winter can provide an excellent blueprint to keep your home comfortable all season long.
1. Get a Professional Home Energy Assessment
Scheduling a home energy assessment is the first step in saving energy for the winter season. Also known as a home energy audit, this assessment provides a complete snapshot of your current energy usage. For example, a home energy audit can determine the extent of your power usage, areas in which your home is inefficient, and repairs you should prioritize to save energy and improve the comfort level of each room. In addition to examining each room, an expert may also review past utility bills.
Professional assessors may also use specialized equipment such as blower doors, infrared cameras, gas leak or carbon monoxide detectors, furnace efficiency meters, or surface thermometers. After completing the examination, a technician can then make suggestions for specific areas of the home. For instance, the technician may recommend installing updated ventilation or upgrading to a smart thermostat for better performance and efficiency.
2. Control the Use of Lights
A simple way to save energy during the winter is to control the use of lights. Keeping room lights and holiday lights on all day and night wastes energy. Turn off overhead lights if you plan to leave the room for 15 minutes or longer, or use motion sensors and timer controls to ensure that lights only come on when someone is in the room. In addition to reducing light usage, consider replacing traditional lights with light-emitting diodes (LEDs). According to the Department of Energy, LEDs use at least 75% less energy and can last up to 25 times longer than conventional incandescent lights. Household applications for LEDs include Christmas tree lights, recessed fixtures, under-cabinet lighting, and outdoor area lights.
3. Unplug Unused Electronics
Did you know that appliances and electronics can draw energy even when their power switches are set in the “OFF” position? Appliances plugged into a power outlet are essentially in standby mode. This means that electrical current continues to flow through the power cord so that the device can immediately activate once someone flips on the power switch. Also known as energy vampires, electronics that remain plugged in can continue to use electricity and may cause a spike in your utility bill. Common household energy vampires can include printers, microwaves, coffee makers, toasters, televisions, computer monitors, DVD players, and video game consoles. According to the Department of Energy, you may save 10% each month by unplugging unused electronics. For the average household, this can translate into $100-$200 per year.
4. Eliminate Air Leaks and Drafts
Air leaks and drafts cause homes to lose heat. You can help reduce heat loss by properly sealing and weatherizing points at which heat escapes or cold weather enters the home. For example, the U.S. Department of Energy recommends caulking any small gaps or cracks, applying weatherstripping to movable parts like doors, and using window attachments to keep heat inside the household. Since attics and basements often hide the worst air leaks or bring in the worst drafts, you should pay special attention to these areas or contact an HVAC technician to perform professional caulking and sealing. An expert can check and resolve unexpected sources of air leaks such as outlets, light fixtures, AC units, or fireplaces. Other easy tips include keeping the damper closed whenever you are not using the fireplace or installing thermal drapes to eliminate cold from windows.
5. Check and Replace Heating Filters
It is important to change your heating filters regularly. Dirty filters become clogged with lint, pollen, dander, dust, and other contaminants. This blockage from unwanted particles can reduce airflow. The reduction in airflow can make your heating system work harder and inhibit vents from delivering warm air to your rooms. This ultimately drives up energy costs. Many experts recommend checking filters each month. The standard practice is to change filters at least once every three months. You can also talk to your HVAC technician about the best high-efficiency filters that minimize air obstruction while removing unwanted pollutants from the air in your home.
6. Program or Adjust Your Thermostat
Program or adjust your thermostat to reduce extra heating costs. A programmable thermostat allows you to specify a lower temperature and monitor any changes as needed. Smart thermostats go a step further in automating settings based on temperature alterations throughout the day. Thermostats with WiFi connections may also link to an app or your smartphone or tablet, allowing you to change the setting remotely. Whichever type of thermostat you choose, adjusting the setting can lead to significant energy savings. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, households can save around 10% on heating costs by lowering the thermostat 10%-15% for eight hours at a time. Making such an adjustment is often simple as well. If you work outside of the home during the day, for example, leave the thermostat on the minimum setting and readjust it for the evening as needed.
7. Insulate the Pipes
Pipes deliver hot water to faucets, fixtures, showerheads, and appliances. Depending on how far the water must travel, however, pipes can also cause the water to lose a lot of heat. Fortunately, insulating the pipes before winter can help. According to the Department of Energy, adding insulation to hot water pipes can raise the temperature of the water by 2 °Fâ€“4 °F. This means that you can reduce the water temperature setting if desired. Insulating the pipes also means that you do not have to wait as long for hot water when you turn on a faucet or showerhead. This reduces strain on your water heater, helps conserve energy, and eliminates water waste.
8. Adjust the Water Heater
Adjusting your water heating settings can also save on energy costs. The common default setting of a standard water heater is 140 degrees Fahrenheit. A conventional water heater maintains this temperature by cycling on and off, continuously reheating the water whether or not it is in use. This can put a strain on your energy bills. Most experts agree that adjusting the setting to 120 degrees Fahrenheit provides ample hot water without scaling your skin or causing unnecessary hikes in your utility bills. To conserve even more energy, talk to a technician about adding a water heater blanket or other forms of insulation around the hot water tank. This can help maintain temperatures so that the heating cycle does not have to restart as often. Finally, if you plan to go on a holiday trip for three or more consecutive days, adjust the water heater to the lowest or vacation setting if possible. This prevents the heating element from restarting when you are not at home and can reduce energy consumption.
Contact Us Today
Making a few simple adjustments to your energy practices can help you save significantly in the long run. If you’re not sure where to start, a professional HVAC company can help. True Climate Heat + Air provides heating and cooling services for homes in Oklahoma City and surrounding areas. We offer new heating installation, annual maintenance, and heating repairs. Our technicians work on everything from ductless systems to all traditional HVAC services. We can also provide indoor air quality assessments at your convenience as well as emergency repairs if you need help right away. Join our membership program for additional savings on routine tune-ups and inspections. No matter the issue, contact True Climate Heat + Air today for all heating and cooling needs.