Make your home and your wallet feel warmer while using less energy.
There’s a lot to enjoy about the winter months: holidays, sweater weather, and, if you’re lucky, maybe even a little snow. But when family and friends huddle indoors to stay warm, the electric bill can climb uncomfortably high. Staying warm doesn’t have to cost a fortune if you plan ahead and stay aware. Keep these easy tips in mind this winter and see just how much you save on your electric bill each month.
Dress for the weather
The best advice is often the simplest — if it’s cold in your house, wear a sweater. Wearing warm clothing like long sleeves and pants is an easy way to stay comfortable without adding to your power bill. So the next time you’re tempted to turn up the heat, reach for a cozy blanket or warm sweater instead.
Windows are one of the chief sources of heat loss in most homes, but replacing them can be expensive. For a more affordable option, consider installing a clear window film that can trap heat in your home and be removed when the temperature rises. Window insulation kits are available at most hardware stores for just a few dollars. When properly installed, plastic window insulation is practically invisible, and it can add a buffer against drafts that will keep more heat inside. It is also important to keep all drapes and blinds closed at night, and if they don’t get direct sunlight, keep them closed during the day, too. For windows that do get sunlight, keep the blinds open to get as much natural warmth as possible.
Block the draft
Drafts can waste as much as 30 percent of your energy, according to the U.S. Department of Energy. Fortunately, there’s a tried and true solution — draft snakes. Make one yourself by rolling up a towel and placing it under a drafty door for easy savings. Also, check your windows and doors to confirm they are providing a complete seal. Even small leaks can add up to major energy losses. Around 20 percent of a home's heat loss is through the windows and doors. Look closely at places in your home where two types of building materials meet. Plug any holes with caulking and weatherstripping. Common culprits include around trim work, the area around chimneys, spots where pipes or wires exit the wall, and along the foundation. For easy instructions on how to air seal to improve the comfort of your home, check out MTE’s energy academy #3 on air sealing. (Add link https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xErDsEu_A-s&t=3s)
Seal switches and outlets
While most people don’t think about sealing electrical outlets, as much as 5 percent of air infiltration in a home comes from outlets and switches on outside walls. Making sure those outlets are sealed can go a long way toward preventing unwanted drafts.
If you have a fireplace, keep the damper closed when you aren’t using it. Leaving it open can make your fireplace a source of cold air.
Are your pipes warm to the touch? If so, insulating them can be a good way to reduce your hot water costs and to decrease the likelihood of pipes freezing. Most hardware stores carry pipe foam rated by R-value, a measure of its heat-blocking power. Insulation with an R-3 rating works for most pipes.
Just because you can’t see it doesn’t mean it isn’t important. Making sure your home is sealed tight with insulation is one of the best ways to cut down on your electric bill, whether it’s hot or cold outside. And don’t forget to cover the attic floor and the basement ceiling to keep heat from escaping. To be properly insulated it needs to be 14 inches.
Chances are, your water heater was set to 140 degrees Fahrenheit when it was installed, but most people don’t need that much heat. Lowering it to 120 degrees can save 6 to 10 percent on your electric bill. Covering your water heater can also help reduce costs. In most homes, the water heater is in a garage or unfinished basement, meaning it’s surrounded by cold air. Covering your tank with a water heater blanket can increase its efficiency, reducing heat loss by 25 percent or more. Don’t forget to wrap the hot water pipes leading from your water heater to keep the water warm.
Replace the air filter
A dirty filter can force your HVAC system to work harder to maintain the same temperature. Replace filters regularly, even monthly, to keep your system running as efficiently as possible. Replacing filters slips most people’s minds, but it’s important. A dirty filter can block airflow, especially during cold months when heating systems work overtime. Consider marking your calendar with a reminder or change your filter when you get your monthly electric bill.
For most people, playing with the thermostat is a game of cranking the heat too high and then letting the temperature drop too low. A programmable thermostat can cut out the guesswork and save you money in the process. The Wi-Fi-enabled thermostats allow you to control the temperature of your home based on occupancy. They’ll have base temperatures set when you are away from home and automatically turn up the heat when you return. Set your thermostat to a lower temperature when you are away or asleep and aim to maintain a temperature of 68 degrees throughout the day.
Reverse your ceiling fans
Ceiling fans aren’t just for keeping you cool. While running a fan counterclockwise produces cool breezes, running it clockwise actually warms rooms by pushing warm air downward. That simple change can reduce heating costs by as much as 10 percent.
Whenever possible, cook food with a microwave, toaster oven, electric skillet or other small cooking appliance. These appliances use less electricity than a full-sized oven. Make sure to match your cooking pots to the same size burner on the stove. And never use your oven to heat your home.
Upgrading to energy-efficient lighting is a good idea at any time. But during the long nights of winter, it can make an even bigger impact on your energy bill. Efficient LED bulbs can last longer and use less energy than traditional incandescent bulbs.
myMTEMC has a suite of useful tools, including one that shows the hours when your household uses the most energy. Compare those with the temperature outside and you can see just how much extra electricity you use when it gets cold. Sign up today at mte.com/myMTEMC.
Energy Service Coordinators
We want to be your trusted advisor, continually offering tips and advice on how to get the most out of your electricity while also saving some money. Your local energy service coordinators are here to help. From webinars to in-home energy evaluations, they're here to help you reduce your energy usage.