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5 Tips for Keeping Energy Costs Low This Winter

Keeping warm in the winter can be costly, especially if you live in an area that’s prone to colder weather. As the temperature drops, you’re likely to see your utility bills get higher. But there are some things you can do to minimize the damage. Making a few simple and inexpensive adjustments in your home can cut down your energy usage (and energy costs) without having to sacrifice comfort.

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If you’re trying to keep your energy costs low this winter, here are a few things we recommend.

1. Set It and Forget It

Investing in a programmable thermostat is a great way to control the temperature in your home while limiting your energy usage and energy costs. By setting the thermostat to a lower temperature when you’re away, you’re not burning as much electricity as you would if your furnace is constantly cycling on and off. If you know you’ll be home at a set time, you can program the thermostat accordingly so your house will be toasty warm when you walk in the door.

Related Article: 5 Ways to Warm the House This Winter (& Save Money)

Lowering the thermostat at night is also a smart move if you’re looking to save some serious cash. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, turning your thermostat down 10 to 15 degrees at night can save you as much as 10% on your heating bills annually. Just make sure to throw a few extra blankets on the bed before you hit the hay.

2. Unplug It

Just because your TV or computer is turned off doesn’t mean it’s not still using energy. If you regularly leave multiple appliances or electronics plugged in, you could be inadvertently driving up your electric bill. The Environmental Protection Agency estimates that leaving electronics plugged in when they’re not in use burns over 100 billion kilowatt hours of electricity each year, which adds up to about $10 billion in energy costs.

Getting in the habit of unplugging the toaster or the coffee maker may take time but it’s worth it in terms of the money you can save. If you don’t think you can remember to pull the cord, you may want to shell out a few bucks for a universal power switch. These switches plug right into your outlet and allow you to leave your electronics hooked up while shutting down the power.

3. Plan Your Usage

Take a close look at your electric bill and you might be surprised about how your usage adds up. If you’re like most people, you may not be aware that the electric company rates your usage differently based on the time of day. The more electricity you use during peak hours, the higher your bill will be.

Generally, early to mid-morning and late afternoon to evening are considered peak usage periods although it may vary based on your utility provider. Planning your energy usage around these peak times can help to reduce your energy costs. Waiting to do your laundry later at night or on the weekend may seem like a hassle but the savings you’ll see on your electric bill could be worth it.

4. Go Energy Efficient

Making the switch to energy efficient appliances, windows and doors may seem a bit extreme but it can pay off in the long run. Leaky doors and windows in particular can have a huge impact on your energy costs and replacing them can ensure that you keep the warmth in and the cold out.

Related Article: The Energy Audit: What It Is and Who Needs It

If you don’t have the cash to replace your windows and doors, you can still improve your home’s insulation without spending a lot. Foam weather stripping easily seals up gaps around doors and at just a few dollars a roll, it’s an inexpensive money-saving solution. If you’ve got older windows, you may also want to pick up some caulking and plastic sheeting insulation to help cut down on drafts.

5. Maintain Your Furnace

Keeping your furnace in good working condition is a must for lowering your energy usage. Dirty filters make it harder for air to flow through which means your unit will have to work that much harder to heat your home. Doing some quick maintenance on a routine basis is an easy way maximize your system’s efficiency and minimize your energy costs.

Replacing filters regularly, cleaning the furnace exterior and checking for signs of wear are simple things you can do to maintain your unit. If it’s been awhile since you’ve had your system serviced, you may want to shell out a few bucks for a complete furnace check-up. For around $100 to $150, a professional heating and air specialist can perform a complete inspection to maximize efficiency.

Related Article: Why Green Houses Are Worth More

Saving energy doesn’t have to be complicated. Even something as simple as turning off the lights when you leave a room can shave hundreds of dollars off your electric bill over time. If your wallet’s feeling the burn this winter, taking the time to address the biggest energy drains in your home can help keep your energy costs down and keep more money in your pocket.

Photo Credit: blmiers2

Rebecca Lake Rebecca Lake is a retirement, investing and estate planning expert who has been writing about personal finance for a decade. Her expertise in the finance niche also extends to home buying, credit cards, banking and small business. She's worked directly with several major financial and insurance brands, including Citibank, Discover and AIG and her writing has appeared online at U.S. News and World Report, CreditCards.com and Investopedia. Rebecca is a graduate of the University of South Carolina and she also attended Charleston Southern University as a graduate student. Originally from central Virginia, she now lives on the North Carolina coast along with her two children.
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