Ways to Save on Energy Costs During the Winter
Four ways you can save on energy costs this winter include:
• Maintaining your heating system (or buying a new, energy-efficient one)
• Sealing your windows (or selecting new, energy-efficient ones)
• Going green with solar energy, whether you own a home or live in an apartment
• Using apps to identify and address energy usage and associated costs
No matter what amount of money you have to invest in energy savings right now (anywhere from zero on up), there are tips that will fit your budget.
We’ll also share information about a great new way to invest into your home, with the goal being to save on long-term energy costs while reducing your carbon footprint.
Tip #1 Perform Heating System Maintenance
When focusing on how to save money on energy in winter weather, your heating system is at the heart of it all. So, it’s crucial to maintain your furnace or heat pump before winter hits, even if it seems to be operating just fine. These mechanical devices have multiple components that wear out and, when that happens, your heating system won’t operate at peak efficiency, which wastes energy and costs money.
Furnaces need filters regularly changed because they capture airborne particles that could damage your fan and heating coil. And, even if damage doesn’t occur, as particles build up on your filters, the furnace operates less efficiently, which again wastes energy and costs money.
If you have an older furnace, you might consider how much you can save, energy-wise, if you purchased a new one. If you want to shop around, the ENERGY STAR® rating on a heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) system means the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has determined this model meets or exceeds strict governmental-issued efficiency guidelines.
Whether you plan to maintain your current furnace or buy a new, energy-efficient one, keep your thermostat as low as is comfortable while you’re home and awake. When you leave home or go to sleep, you can save 10% on energy bills by turning the thermostat down by 10 to 15 degrees. Smart thermostats can be programmed to do this automatically.
With a heat pump, keep a moderate setting and consider programmable thermostats. With wood-burning heaters (or pellet-burning ones), regularly clean your flue vent, plus inside the appliance.
No matter what heating system you have, consider having a professional maintain it once or twice yearly.
Tip #2 Windows Matter!
Energy.gov offers multiple tips on how to protect your windows to reduce energy costs, and the first is to take advantage of the sun’s heat, whenever possible. With your south-facing windows, open the curtains during the day to benefit from the sun’s rays, and close them at night.
Use heavy-duty, clear plastic to seal your windows during the winter. There are multiple commercial products to consider or you can tape the plastic on your window frames or inside the frames during winter months. Make sure the plastic is tightly sealed to help reduce drafts.
Also consider the use of insulating drapes and shades any place your windows still feel drafty. You can also use window films or quilts, among multiple other energy-efficiency attachments specially designed for windows.
Insulated shades are created from pleated materials, usually located at the top of the window, but sometimes at the bottom. They can be folded up like an accordion, as desired. They help to save on energy costs because they contain one or more air layers that act like insulators, which limits heat’s ability to leave through the window. It’s estimated that insulated shades can reduce heat loss by 40% or more, which typically equates to a 20% savings on energy costs.
How much your drapes (fabric that reaches the floor) will help to hold in heat depends upon the fabric type as well as the color. No matter which type you have, it makes sense to close them during cold weather, which can reduce heat loss up to about 10%.
To make them as effective as possible, hang them as closely as you can to your windows, with a cornice at the top. Use VELCRO® or magnetic tape to seal the drapes at the sides and in the center. By doing so, you could potentially reduce heat loss up to 25%.
If you have curtains (fabric sized to fit your window), you can find tips to keep out the cold below:
• Choose tightly-woven, heavyweight materials. These include tweed, tapestry, velvet, suede or denim.
• If you’d like to keep your light- to medium-weight curtains because of their style, consider creating a layered look during the winter time, which may also be helpful for keeping the cool air out. Check out, SFGate for more info.
If you’d like even more energy savings, replace older windows with new, energy-efficient ones. Energy.gov suggests that, just like with a new furnace, you look for the ENERGY STAR® designation.
Tip #3 Go Green with Solar Energy
When looking for ways to reduce energy bills, don’t forget solar energy. There are options that will work for you, whether you own a home or rent an apartment.
As a homeowner, you can install solar panels on your roof to directly benefit from the sun’s energy, and then potentially receive a 30% federal tax credit for renewable energy. As of this writing, there is no monetary cap on this tax credit and it has been extended through 2019. If you don’t install the solar panels until 2020, however, the percentage you can deduct will likely still exist, but is set up to incrementally drop.
Plus, the cost of installing solar panels is decreasing around the country. You can get bids for your region online . And, even if you enjoy this hefty tax credit, you can continue to save on your energy bills. A tool by Google, Project Sunroof , can help you to estimate your savings.
If you live in an apartment, you can explore shared renewable options. For example, you can investigate whether your utility company allows you to buy your energy from a renewable energy source (and whether your landlord allows it).
Or, if you live in a community where a significant number of people want to invest in a solar farm development, you can find more information about that at the Solar Energy Industries Association . As of the end of Q2 2018, 1,226 megawatts of community solar power have been installed in the United States, with at least one project in 42 different states.
Apps to Consider
As you’re looking for more ways to reduce energy bills, always remember—there’s an app for just about anything. As just two examples:
• Energy Consumption Analyzer : This app lets you know your average energy consumption rate on an hourly, daily, weekly, or monthly basis—for your home or business. A graph makes it easy to see, at a glance, your entire power consumption history and you can color code and otherwise annotate your records. You can choose to have results shown by a monetary value or by energy consumed.
• CodeGreen Energy : This app is an EPA ENERGY STAR® partner, created to compare energy efficiencies of buildings through the designation of a score. This app can also let you know how well your home or business complies with new regulations.
When you started to read this post, your initial thought may have been, “Hmmm. I wonder how to lower my electric bill in winter?” And, as all these options show, it’s really a matter of choosing which strategies make the most sense for you.
About SoFi MoneyTM
Recommendations made in this post can help you reduce your energy consumption and, therefore, the cost. Some of these strategies are free or low cost, while others require an initial investment. To help save the money you may need, we invite you to check out SoFi Money®.
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