Money-Saving Tips for Winter
As fall turns to winter, the crisp air and dropping temperatures may tempt you to turn up the thermostat and nestle in for a long winter’s nap. But don’t let chilly weather lead you to higher bills.
As the weather gets colder, keeping your household bills down can become a challenge. Winter habits, such as cranking up the heat to stay warm and dazzling holiday light show displays, can cause your electricity and gas bills to go through the roof. But with a little planning and a lot of intentionalities, you can keep your bills down without freezing yourself out.
Take Advantage of Special Plans Offered by Electric Companies
Do you have the best electric plan for your home and family’s energy consumption habits? Contact your electricity provider to see if they offer any “specials” you can take advantage of.
For example, some providers offer a Time of Use plan. These plans charge you based on the time of day in which you consume energy. Overnight hours are typically the least expensive. Morning and afternoon rates fall in the middle of the range of rates per kilowatt-hour. The evening hours, typically between 4 p.m. and 8 p.m., are when rates are most expensive. These hours are when most people are home and energy use is at its peak, causing the high rates. If you can adjust your energy consumption habits and shift major energy-consuming tasks (such as running the dishwasher or doing laundry) to non-peak hours, this type of plan could save you money over time.
Homeowners with all-electric appliances may also find that their energy provider offers a lower-cost plan than their current plan. If you don’t need gas for your heating or cooking appliances, check with your provider to see if they sell an all-electric plan that’s more economical.
Be Conscious of the Small Things, They Add Up
You’ve likely heard the saying “every little bit helps.” It’s a true statement, especially when it comes to saving money on your bills this winter.
When you get right down to it, every day we make choices (consciously and unconsciously) that impact our home expenses. Here are several small changes you can make to your routines to help you save big money:
Maximize your home’s energy usage by taking small steps to decrease your energy use. Turn your lights off when you leave the room. Consider swapping those lights out to LEDs. Close your fireplace damper when it is not in use. Seal all your windows so your heater doesn’t have to work overtime to keep your house warm. And make sure all your doors are tightly closed. You may even consider using a door sweep, door sock, or door threshold.
Check your car’s tire pressure. It may seem like a stretch, but remember that saying … “every little bit helps.” It is common for car tires to lose air during cold weather months. Driving with underinflated tires decreases your fuel efficiency, which results in spending more on gasoline than is truly necessary. As a first step, use a simple tire pressure gauge to check your tire pressure. In more urgent cases, you may see a dashboard tire pressure indicator light when driving. Don’t ignore this dashboard light. Head to your local gas station and pump up your tires to the optimum tire pressure.
Don’t go overboard on holiday lighting. Quiet your inner Clark Griswold this year. In the movie “National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation,” Clark lit up the night with 25,000 lights strung around his home. And while his holiday spirit shone bright, so too did his energy bill … and not in a good way.
Having a festive home is part of the fun of homeownership, and it can put your entire family into the holiday spirit. But copious decorations use up a lot of electricity. Consider looking into more energy-conscious decorations such as LED lights, or even decorations that don’t need to be plugged in. You could also put your holiday lights on an automatic timer, saving you brainpower and money at a time of year when both are taxed to the max.
Keep Your Thermostat Under Control
You want to be comfortable in your home, but consider ways to stay warm that don’t include setting your thermostat too high. According to energy.gov, “you can save as much as 10 percent a year on heating and cooling by simply turning your thermostat back 7°-10°F for eight hours a day from its normal setting.” So, grab some festive blankets for the couch, add another layer of warmth on your bed and pull on a snuggly sweatshirt. These small tweaks will all help you save energy by allowing you to set your thermostat a few ticks cooler, but you’ll still be warm in your house.
If there is one small room or space that feels colder than the rest, consider an efficient space heater. While space heaters won’t save you money if you try to heat a whole house with them, they are a great way to lower your energy consumption if used on a small scale.
Another option is investing in a smart thermostat, such as Google Nest or ecobee. A smart thermostat will learn your family’s patterns and adjust your heating or cooling when no one is home, saving you money and helping the environment.
Invest in a Home Heating and Cooling Wellness Check
Energy.gov estimates that heating a home makes up about 29% of the average utility bill. Keeping your home warm during the winter is one of the single greatest sources of energy consumption in your home.
Bringing in a professional to inspect your HVAC system can help prevent future problems and give you peace of mind that you won’t be left in the cold. Your technician can inspect your system for problems and often solve them right there. They’ll also look at your furnace filter and recommend a replacement if needed, something that will help your systems run optimally.
When the weather turns cold, there is always an inclination to crank up the heater. In doing so, you also crank up your bills! Follow the four tips outlined above and save yourself some money this winter.