The heat(er) is on! 5 winter home energy saving tips

This is a guest post.

Turning the heat on can strike fear into the hearts of many a home owner. Rising heating bills are not a thing of the past. They are present and there is no end in sight. Relief for high winter heat costs can be found in every leaky window, poorly sealed storm door, inaccurate thermostats and many other locations in and around your home. Seeking out the cheapest gas and electricity prices from local suppliers can help reduce total energy costs and should include home energy audits and payment plans to equalize summer and winter energy bills.

Top 5 Tips for Year Round Home Energy Savings

1. Obtain a free energy audit kit from your local electric or gas provider. Approach your home energy audit as a family. Involving children is one of the best ways to decrease overall energy consumption. Teach the kids about leaving doors open, leaving lights on and the television on when not in the room. Appoint an energy officer for the house who will be responsible for reminding family members about energy conserving activities.

2. Install a digital thermostat, which can be programmed to automatically raise or reduce home temperatures when the house is not occupied such as when parents are at work and the kids are at school. Lowering temperatures to 60 degrees on mild winter days for just six hours during the work day can save on your heating bills without compromising comfort. By limiting the time not to exceed six hours the cost for bringing the home back to acceptable living temperatures is minimal; much longer and the bounce back time is increased sufficiently to mitigate any daytime savings. Reducing overall temperatures by one degree Fahrenheit can save as much as three percent on the total heating bill. Reduce the household temperature by five degrees Fahrenheit and experience a 15 percent saving which is a number most families can easily live with.

3. Comparison shop for the cheapest gas and electricity from local private energy suppliers. Ask about payment plans, adjustable billing cycles and energy reform programs. State and local governments have options for lower income homes, providing subsidies for high winter heating bills. Grants for home improvement along with energy conservation tax credits, which can be applied to heating costs, are another way to reduce budget impacting heating bills this winter.

4. Close vents, use energy efficient space heaters and alternative heat sources for additional energy savings. Closing vents to unused rooms will reduce energy consumption for the entire house. Heating less square footage will require less energy. When closing vents, be sure to seal those rooms well. Install thermal window coverings to reduce heat loss and temperature fluctuations and reduce air exchange at door thresholds with the use of a draft dodger. Using an energy efficient space heater in cold rooms can improve comfort without increasing overall heating costs. Spaces such as basements and laundry rooms can benefit from temporary use of space heaters to increase temperatures for those rooms temporarily. Consider alternative heat sources such as wood stoves and fireplace inserts. Fireplaces are generally inefficient as heat sources. However, wood stoves using catalytic converters can have energy efficiency ratings that rival high tech heat pumps.

5. Appliance energy hogs such as hot water heaters, washers, dryers, ovens and dishwashers should be evaluated each season. Lowering the hot water heater temperature and insulating the water heater and the pipes can reduce energy consumption of this one appliance by as much as seven percent. Wash clothing on cold water settings whenever possible, reserving hot water for only items needing sterilization, such as sick room bedding or cloth diapers. Never start the dishwasher if it is not completely full. The same amount of water and energy will be used to wash five plates and three glasses and will be required to wash a full meal’s worth of dishes for a family of six.

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    1. Whatever time of the year, I don’t use hot water in my laundry. Lukewarm water will do. And during warm or windy days, I open the windows and let the sun shine in and feel the cold air. It is more refreshing aside and, of course, budget-friendly.

    2. The digital thermostat is our winter money saver. We never have to worry about forgetting to turn down the heat when we leave for work and school in the mornings. In the evenings if we feel a slight chill it can be turned up a bit but will lower by itself in a couple hours.

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