Less daylight, cooler weather, more time indoors. When winter comes around, it seems like there are countless reasons to draw on extra power. Though hefty winter electric bills have been a challenge for decades, our increasing adoption of technology and electricity-powered devices has sent electricity consumption through the roof. According to the World Bank, the average American uses 220% more electricity in 2014 than in 1960. Unchecked, this heightened expense can strain your budget in the winter months. But don’t stay in the dark – check out our tips on how to slash your electric bill without having to make crazy lifestyle changes.
Seriously, Lower the Thermostat
We’ve heard it time and time again – lower the temperature of your thermostat. It may seem obvious, but even small changes in your home’s temperature can have a huge impact on your electric bill. According to the Department of Energy, heating and cooling makes up to 48% of your energy consumption. However, you can cut your bill by 1% for every degree in an eight-hour period.
Kick the temperature down seven to ten degrees while at work or asleep, and turn it back to a comfortable level when you get home or wake up. The best news? You don’t have to sacrifice a cozy house!
However, if you have a multi-stage heat pump or electric elements for backup on your heat pump, don’t change your setpoint significantly, as this can actually take more electricity to heat the space back up.
Switch to a Programmable or Smart Thermostat
Turning down the heat while you’re away may sound great – but implementing it on a consistent basis will take some thought until it becomes a habit. You can avoid that by investing in a programmable thermostat or a smart thermostat.
With a programmable thermostat, you’ll be able to program several temperatures throughout the day, meaning you won’t have to adjust the temperature on a daily basis.
With smart thermostats, you can remotely control the temperature of your house on your smartphone, tablet, or computer. This gives you much more control compared to a programmable thermostat, making it easier to adjust the temperature on the fly. Additionally, some models will automatically modify the temperature based on whether or not you’re home. With location censoring, the thermostat can tell if you are in the room and will keep things warm. If it doesn’t detect you, it will turn the temperature down.
Programmable thermostats are the cheaper option, with various models under $50. Smart thermostats can range from just over $100 to a few hundred dollars, but include many added features. Both can offer all the savings of temperature setbacks without the added responsibility of manually adjusting the temperature throughout the day.
Keep Your Heat In
In addition to just turning the heat down, you can also make small adjustments to your home to ensure the heat you do put out stays in your home.
If there are rooms in your house that are rarely used, consider closing the rooms’ heating vents and doors. This will allow more directed airflow to rooms you do use, letting your system work less to keep you warm.
Often associated with cooling rooms, ceiling fans can do wonders for keeping rooms warm too! By changing the spin direction to clockwise, the fan will draw cool air up and create an updraft that pushes warm air back down into the room. Don’t forget to turn your fan back to counter-clockwise in the warmer months though, so it can work to push cool air down instead.
Taking care of your furnace will keep it working as efficiently as possible. Keep the area around it clean and unblocked, allowing for optimal ventilation. Additionally, be sure to check your furnace filter regularly. Depending on the amount of people and pets living in your house, you may need to change it quarterly or monthly.
Target areas of your house where heat is escaping, like one of the most common culprits - windows. It’s estimated that windows are responsible for 20% of your home’s energy loss. While most types of window treatments help keep the heat in and the cold out to some extent, insulated blinds are designed specifically for this purpose and do it very well. Coming in a variety of sizes, textures, and colors, you’ll be able to find styles that look great in your home while putting a stop to some serious heat loss!
Watch the Water Heater
The next big power-user is a home’s water heater. Warm baths and long showers are great ways to take the chill off and unwind, but these, along with warm water used by your appliances, can contribute 17% of a home’s annual energy load.
Making small changes like turning off the water while scrubbing dishes and taking shorter showers can help. Small investments like an insulation blanket for your water heater and low-flow fixtures can also contribute to substantial savings. As your old appliances need to be replaced, do so with competitively-priced high-efficiency models.
If you are looking to make a bigger impact and are still using an electric element for heating your water, consider upgrading to a heat pump water heater. These can produce three times the amount of hot water for the same energy. Many utilities offer rebates worth $300 or more to purchase heat pump water heaters, making it an attractive investment.
Unplug Idle Appliances
Think you’re being energy-conscious by turning off devices you’re not using? Not seeing huge results on your bill? That’s because devices on idle power mode continue to draw electricity, whether they’re on or not. According to a study, this isn’t a negligible expense, either. Estimates come in that about a quarter of your bill could be power drawn from devices while you’re not even using them.
Any device with an external power supply connected (chargers plugged in but not charging; TVs and cable boxes turned off; coffee makers not in use) will use electricity. While unplugging and replugging these devices may seem like more trouble than its worth, grab a surge protector or a smart surge protector and plug all the energy vampires into it. Flick the strip’s switch on and off to control the power going to all the devices plugged into it at once. This small habit could lead to big reductions in your monthly electric bill.
Get Smart with Lighting
While they have a higher cost up front, LED lightbulbs will more than pay for themselves over the years and have come down substantially in price. A 12-watt LED bulb will last up to 25 times longer than an incandescent bulb and will use 25 – 80% less energy. The less-expensive CFLs are still a great alternative to incandescent, but have a considerably shorter lifespan than LEDs.
Another great source of light is completely free – the sun. Implement popular daylighting methods to take full advantage of this resource throughout the day. Keep window fixtures open on south-facing windows, allowing the low winter sun to shine warm light into your house. Move furniture that blocks the light from transmitting across the room, and focus on light tones and reflective surfaces.
Implementing these seemingly minor tips can lead to a substantial savings over the years, but if you’re looking for an even more significant savings on your electric bill, consider going solar. With available incentives, the upfront cost is much lower and the payback time is much shorter than many think, making it a viable option for homeowners and businesses alike. In just a few years, your system could be producing free electricity.