Common Cold Weather Energy Efficiency Myths

Don't fall for these common efficiency myths that can use more energy and cost you extra money on your energy bill.

Myth #1 - Weather does not affect my electric bill.

When temperatures dip, running the heat for long periods of time can result in a significantly higher bill. The larger the difference between the temperature of the air outside and the temperature of the air inside, the more energy has to be used to heat the air. Even if you don’t adjust the setting on your thermostat, changing outside temperatures mean your home’s heating system must work harder to maintain a constant temperature indoors.

Myth #2 - My bill should be the same as last month if I didn’t adjust my thermostat. 

When it gets really cold (usually freezing and below), it is harder for heat pumps to keep up with the heating demand inside your home. Once the heat pump reaches the point that the compressor working alone can no longer heat your home, it relies on auxiliary (sometimes referred to as strip) heat to get your home to the set thermostat temperature. 

If your thermostat is reading lower than what you ask, setting your thermostat higher will not make your home heat up faster. It just means your unit will continue to run because it takes longer to reach the target temperature. If you have a heat pump and you turn the heat up more than 2 degrees at a time, your auxiliary heat will turn on to aid the compressor, which can lead to a higher utility bill. 

If you’re at home during the day, the recommended temperature setting is 68 degrees, but every degree below that can save around 3% on your heating costs, and conversely, every degree above 68 can add around 3% to heating costs. If you set the temperature lower, make sure to dress warmer. Make use of hats, sweatshirts, warm socks, and blankets to stay comfortable. If you need additional heat, use an electric blanket. It is a concentrated heat source and does not use much electricity.

Myth #3 - I can lower my bill by using space heaters.

While it may seem cost-effective to turn off your HVAC system and use portable space heaters, that decision may end up costing you. The majority of consumer space heaters you can purchase from big box retailers consume approximately 1500 Watts of electricity or more. A 1500-Watt space heater that is used for 12 hours a day, for an entire month, will add an extra $49 dollars to your bill - for each space heater! 

Myth #4 - Turning off the upstairs HVAC unit will save money.

If you have two HVAC units and the upstairs unit is turned off, then the downstairs unit is supplying the heat for the entire home and working harder. As you heat the downstairs, that heat will start to move upstairs (heat rises). If there is a major temperature difference between upstairs and downstairs, then your heat will continue to rise.

You can prevent your downstairs unit from overuse by turning on the upstairs unit, but have it run a few degrees cooler than the downstairs one. If no one is upstairs, it does not need to be as warm as the main living area. So, keep it cooler but not off because it takes more energy to reheat an area than to keep it at a lower temp.

Myth #5 - Closing vents and doors in unused rooms saves energy.

Keeping a vent closed prevents the warm air from going into a room, and this can cause a negative effect on how your home circulates warm air. If you have rooms you don’t use and you close off the vents, this allows for cold areas to build, and it prevents a consistent temperature in the home. Also, it is best to leave interior doors open when possible as this also aids in air circulation inside the home.

Myth #6 - I can save on my electric bill by heating with my oven.

Running an electric oven costs much more than running a smaller space heater. The longer an oven is on -- especially unattended -- the greater the chance of an electrical malfunction leading to a fire. Ovens are designed to heat the small, internal area where your food is cooked, not an entire room in your home.