As winter falls upon us, we usually end up spending more and more time in the house. The weather is cold, it gets dark early and most us of just feel like bundling up on the couch and turning up the heat. This season, assess your house and your habits so you can lower your energy bills without freezing. Here are some basic tips to save energy and money this winter:

  1. Use the heat from the sun. When the sun is shining during the day open the curtains so the natural heat can add warmth to the room. When the sun goes down, close the curtains to keep the heat in.
  2. Check your thermostat. Lowering the inside temperature by just 1 degree can save between 2 and 10 percent in energy costs. Try lowering it further at night or when you are going to be away from the house for a few days.
  3. Dress warmer. It seems like a no brainer, but put on a sweatshirt or a pair of nice thick socks while you are hanging around the house. Keep some throw blankets near the couch to stay warm while you are relaxing and reading or watching TV.
  4. If you have air conditioners that stay in the wall or window all year long, cover them. You can use plastic inside the house to cover them or buy outside covers for them to keep the cold air out.
  5. Consider using a humidifier; inside air can be very dry during the winter.Moist air feels warmer and holds heat better.
  6. Decrease the drafts in the house. Cold air can seep through around your windows, under doors and even through electrical outlets. Caulk around the window frames, install weather stripping and even block the bottoms of the front and back door with a home-made insulator. These usually look like fat snakes and you can easily buy them for a few dollars. If you are crafty it could be a great DIY project.
  7. Check the rotation direction of your ceiling fans. The rotation of the blades can pull air up or push it down. In the winter you want the blades to turn clockwise to help push the warmth down.
  8. Use exhaust fans sparingly, if at all. Exhaust fans can help clean the air in your kitchen and bathroom but in the process they can also suck a lot of hot air out of the room.
  9. Check the lights. Fluorescent lighting uses less energy than incandescent lighting so swap out the old bulbs with LEDs. Decorate for the holidays with LED lights; they use 75-90 percent less energy and last up to 25 times longer than the incandescents.
  10. Toaster ovens and slow-cookers use much less energy than the oven, so if you are cooking something that would work in those appliances, skip the oven. If you need the oven, avoid opening it every few minutes to look at the food. Also, when working with pots on the stove make sure the pot is on the appropriate burner for its size. Otherwise you could be wasting energy.

Sometimes winter can be a challenge when a house full of people all feel the cold differently. One person can be fine walking around with a short sleeve shirt while another person is wearing a sweatshirt and bumping up the temperature on the thermostat. Using some of these tips can help keep that cold out and keep your heating bill from breaking the bank.

By Sheila M. Clancy MS, CHES

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