Learning how to lower your utility bill this winter doesn’t have to be as complicated as rocket science, or assembling that IKEA wardrobe you’ve got on your holiday wishlist. All it requires is a bit of knowledge, a modicum of elbow grease and a willingness to embrace the idea that small actions can lead to big savings down the road.
If you’d like to lower your utility bill and invest that money in some other area of your life, perhaps a new passive income property, here are seven simple ways to reduce your energy bill this winter.
How To Lower Your Utility Bill This Winter
1. Unplug Gadgets
According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), small, unused gadgets are responsible for draining 100-billion kilowatt hours per year of unnecessary energy loss. When left idle, these same 100 billion kilowatt hours cost households a staggering $10 billion annually.
As referenced in Time magazine, Rob Caiello, vice president of marketing for AllConnect, suggests unplugging video games, microwaves and even battery chargers to keep rising energy costs at bay.
Quick tip: Because it may be inconvenient to unplug each item individually, consider plugging in all energy-draining smaller gadgets or appliances into the same power strip to make powering down easier.
2. Lower The “Heat” In Your Water Heater
The U.S. Department of Energy reports that water warming accounts for up to 18% of a household’s energy consumption. Setting your water temperature to 120°F can help you see small changes in your energy bills over time. It can also serve as an invaluable safety precaution, preventing injuries like hand-scalding or bath-time related injuries in households with small children.
Though, as Jay Best, founder and president of Green Audit USA, shared with LearnVest, “Don’t go below 120 degrees, as some bacteria can grow at lower temperatures.”
3. Prevent Heat-Loss From Your Fireplace
Many families rely on fireplaces to heat a house and prevent extensive wear-and-tear on their heating, ventilation and air-conditioning (HVAC) units during winter. This makes your fireplace an unlikely culprit of heat-loss. However, drafty fireplaces are one of the main sources of escaped heat that can show up within a home.
To prevent heat-loss from your fireplace and chimney, try one of these energy-saving solutions:
- Insert caulking around the fireplace hearth.
- Keep your fireplace damper closed unless ready to build a fire.
- If you don’t plan to use your fireplace, seal and plug the chimney flue. Keep in mind, once plugged and sealed, you’ll need to reverse the process before making a decision to safely resume active use of your fireplace.
- Install tempered glass doors.
- Opening the dampers, located at the bottom of your fireplace, can greatly reduce heat-loss.
Alternatively, you can also open a nearby window, approximately one-inch, and close all doors leading into the room to achieve the same effect.
4.Keep A Clean Landscape
Overgrown or crowded greenery can prevent airflow from reaching the HVAC elements of your home. Not only does this hamper performance, but the additional shade can serve as a catalyst for your unit to “freeze over” in the winter.
To lower winter energy bill costs, and protect the health of your HVAC, keep landscaping near your central heating and air unit uncrowded and well-trimmed. (Bonus: This can also keep your house looking its absolute best when company comes over for the holidays.)
5. Decrease Drafts From Electrical Outlets
Electrical outlets in residential spaces are not often insulated. A lack of proper insulating behind electrical outlets can lead to cold air sneaking in through these unexpected energy-zappers, and increase the amount of heat required to warm a home.
To decrease the amount of air that enters through your outlets, remove the cover plate and use a quality caulking or foam filler to help seal off drafts that may be present. With just a few minutes of DIY work, you can make a huge impact on that skyrocketing winter-energy bill.
6. Bundle Up
Keeping your thermostat at a steady, set temperature may keep you consistently warm, but it also raises your electrical bill more than you might realize (especially in the evenings, and when nobody is in the home).
Putting on an extra sweater, or reaching for that nearby blanket — instead of cranking the thermostat — can help prevent your HVAC from working overtime. According to Dr. Christopher Winter, medical director at Charlottesville Neurology Sleep Medicine, people who sleep in colder rooms not only sleep more efficiently, but are also healthier in general than those who sleep in warmer spaces.
If you need more incentive for making things a bit colder before bedtime, a four-month study, conducted by the National Institute of Health (NIH), revealed those who slept in rooms at 66°F burned more calories while awake than those who did not, and were at a lower-risk category for developing certain metabolic diseases.
7.Inquire About Special Programs
If it’s time for an appliance upgrade in your home, many electric companies — even the government — may offer rebate incentives you can take advantage of when replacing an old appliance with an Energy Star-approved model. This can offset, significantly, the cost of a new appliance and lower your energy bill long-term.
If you own a rental property, discuss the possibility of upgrading to appliances labeled “Most Efficient” — a step up from the Energy Star seal of approval. This will not only save you money on your utility bill, but prepare your passive income property for future renters.
As Benjamin Franklin once said: “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” And the same is true of your winter energy bill; it’s a little late, after you receive that astronomic winter energy bill, to begin the process of making your home more energy-efficient.
Just know by taking small, simple actions — and by paying attention to “how” and “when” you consume energy in your home — you’ll do far more than lower your utility bill in the coldest months of the year. You’ll build wealth, one penny at a time.