If you’re heating your home with electricity during the fall and winter months, it will likely be the highest portion of your electricity bill. According to the US Department of Energy, approximately 56 percent of electric power is used for heating and cooling. Fortunately, there are lots of opportunities to optimize furnaces, heat pumps, and other areas around your home to reduce your electricity bill as a whole.
Strategies for Reducing Electricity Costs
Residents in Texas and other southern states don’t have to grit their teeth and endure high electricity bills throughout fall and winter. There are many ways to help make sure that you’re not wasting the heat you’re creating (and paying for) and make your home more efficient. Let’s look at several of them in detail.
Use Other Sources of Heat
Every degree above 70 will increase your heating cost up to four percent. So try to take advantage of the heat generated from other activities around the house. For example, taking a shower creates heat in the surrounding area. The cold months are also a great time to do some baking. Not just for the treats, but also because using the stove provides extra heat for a few hours.
Don’t Let the Heat Out
Walk around your house — inside and out — and look for gaps or leaks where warm air can escape. Feel around windows, door frames, electrical switches and boxes, and anywhere else where gaps might be present. If you feel cold air, it means you found an air leak. Caulk, expanding foam, and weatherstripping are all reasonably priced solutions. For homes with older windows that are very drafty, applying plastic sheeting over the whole window is an easy fix. And if you feel a draft along the bottom of a door, install a draft stopper to create a tighter seal.
You don’t need to buy any gadgets or install an app on your phone with this one. In fact, it’s as straightforward as it gets — put on a pair of socks. That’s it. And it’s super effective — 30 percent of your body heat escapes through your feet and hands, so simply covering them up will stop a massive source of heat loss. And if you’re still cold, put on a comfy sweatshirt or cozy up with a warm throw blanket. You’ll stay warm, and those things are more fun than turning up the thermostat, anyway.
Maintain Your HVAC System
Most HVAC systems should be maintenanced twice a year — once in the spring before the cooling season begins and then in the fall before the heating season. If a heater is properly maintained, it will run more efficiently. And make sure that you’re replacing your filters on a regular basis. Put it on your calendar, put them on autoship — whatever helps you stay consistent. Filters that get dirty and clogged will cause your unit to work harder, raising heating costs.
Close Your Fireplace When You’re Not Using It
The fireplace is warm, cozy, fun, inviting, and lots of other pleasant things. But, if there’s no fire burning and the damper is open, it’s also a place to lose warm air. So if you don’t have a fire going, close the damper to prevent warm air from escaping up and out the chimney.
Turn On the Ceiling Fan
While some people use ceiling fans to cool in the summer, reversible ceiling fans are also helpful in the winter. In the summer, they keep us cool. But in the winter, that’s not really their purpose. They do much better at recirculating the heat that tends to rise and collect near the ceiling and above the living space. Flip on the ceiling fan to circulate the warm air. And if it has a reverse switch, you can use it to change the direction of the airflow.
Replace Incandescent Bulbs With LED
A standard incandescent bulb uses more energy than a LED bulb. A 60-watt incandescent bulb uses 60 watts of power, but a LED bulb can provide the equivalent of 60 watts of light using only six watts of power. When you consider all the bulbs in your home, it’s easy to see what a difference it makes. And of course, remember to turn the lights off when you leave the room. Additionally, if you use Christmas lights, get LED models, which are up to 90 percent more efficient than incandescent bulbs.
Maintain Your Refrigerator and Freezer
It may seem like these would consume less energy in the winter, but they are surrounded by warmer air in the winter, meaning they have to work harder. Fortunately, you can encourage and maintain a higher level of refrigerator efficiency by cleaning the coils on the back and bottom sides of the appliance. Going over them with the vacuum, or wiping them off, is all it takes. And if your refrigerator or freezer is an older model, consider replacing it with an Energy Star model.
Dress for Warmth
It turns out that your body is one of the best heat sources you have. Before you reach over to crank up your thermostat to 80 degrees, try putting on warmer clothes. Wearing layers is a smart strategy because it retains your body heat in air pockets between the layers to keep you warm. Sweaters and sweatpants are both on trend and super comfortable.
Make Your Water Heater More Efficient
Water heaters contribute about the same amount to your electric bill as a clothes dryer, and there are a few ways to optimize their use. First, turn a faucet on to the highest temperature. If it’s too hot to touch, then you can turn your water heater down to a lower temperature. It’ll be safer, more in line with your needs, and save money. Additionally, if your water heater is older than five years or has an R-value less than R-24, add extra insulation to reduce heat loss by 25 to 45 percent. Add a water heater blanket or jacket (be sure it has a value of at least R-8) and insulate the pipes around your water heater with good quality fiberglass strips or pipe sleeves.
Unplug Devices When Not In Use
Commonly referred to as “energy vampires,” many devices use “standby power” to consume electricity while they are switched off or in standby mode. According to the Department of Energy, this energy loss accounts for 5 to 8 percent of a single-family home’s total electricity use each year. Computers and monitors alone can consume around 400 watts of power for every hour they’re on. Although it seems convenient to leave them plugged in, they’re power hogs and should be powered down and unplugged when not in use. And they’re not the only culprit. An easy rule of thumb is to look for anything that has an LED light, clock, or remote. If the idea of wrangling multiple plugs doesn’t sound appealing, group them into power strips that can be easily switched on and off.
Minimize Dryer Use
Dryers are a heavy burden on your electric bill. You may want to consider a gas or propane dryer or air-drying as an alternative, but even those with outdoor clothes lines may find that the days are too short and cold for drying in the worst of the cold season. You can still dry clothes without a dryer by using drying racks indoors. Move them outside during sunny periods and then back indoors later. For added drying space, some garments that are not too heavy can go onto a strong hanger and be hung up to dry.
Keep Your Electricity Bill Consistent All Year
Because electricity is available on-demand at the literal flip of a switch, and you don’t have to open your wallet every time you use a kilowatt, it’s easy for wasteful habits to creep in — and that’s when your bill starts to creep up. Don’t let that happen, especially during the colder months when you’re using more electricity as it is.
These are just a few of the strategies you can put into practice to improve your home’s energy efficiency and reduce your overall use. Be a mindful consumer, take advantage of opportunities to conserve, and make sure you’re starting with a low rate to begin with. Are you paying too much? Compare your rate with one of the plans from Energy Texas and see if making a switch can save you money.