The coldest months of the year can be hard on your budget. You want to keep your house warm, but cranking up your heater usually leads to high utility bills. Sure, using less energy sounds like a good idea, but so does being comfortable. No one wants to be chilly inside their own home!
By using these helpful winter energy-saving tips, you can increase the energy efficiency of your home, which could make a big difference in your heating bills. You don’t even need to be a do-it-yourself home improvement expert to put our recommendations into action. You can do many of these today and save money tomorrow!
1. Use the Best Thermostat Settings for Winter
This is one of the most important energy efficiency tips for winter. The Department of Energy reports that your heating system can consume nearly 30% of your energy consumption. Unless you actually use less electricity, you can’t lower your electricity bills.
You can use less electricity to heat your home by adjusting your thermostat settings to the optimal temperatures for the season:
- 68 °F during the day (if someone is home)
- 65 °F during the day (if no one is home)
- 65 °F at night
- 60 °F if you leave home for vacation
While those recommendations might seem too cool at first glance, you can acclimate to them by changing your thermostat by 1 °F per day until you reach the desired setting. When combined with the rest of this list, you and your family will still feel comfortable, and you’ll use less energy.
2. Use a Programmable Thermostat
When we say “programmable” we’re not referring to an expensive, space-age model (though smart thermostats have plenty of energy-saving benefits). We’re talking about an entry-level thermostat that allows you to enter a basic schedule and temperature settings.
We call this the “set-it-and-forget-it” approach. You enter in the basic settings we provided above – 68 °F during daytime hours and 65 °F during nighttime hours – and then you don’t have to think about when/how to change the temperature on your own. You’re automatically setting yourself up for success, which can quickly translate to lower usage and energy savings over time.
If you do install a fancier thermostat, many of them come with apps you can use to create several schedules, which is perfect for busy families. You can also use those apps to modify your thermostat with ease in case you need to go off-schedule during hectic times or adjust the temperature automatically when you leave home.
3. Use Curtains to Your Advantage
It’s really this simple:
- Open your curtains during the day to let in sunlight
- Close your curtains at night to prevent heat loss
Your curtains really can help you regulate the temperature of your home. It’s what people did for centuries, even before the arrival of central heating, and it still works just as well now as it did back then.
4. Wear Layers Indoors
Do you want to maximize the full benefits of those lower thermostat temperatures we mentioned earlier? It’s time to re-think the attire your family wears inside the house.
No, your kids don’t have to sport a full snowsuit like they’re hitting the slopes, but they can definitely put on some warm socks, a sweater, or a long-sleeved shirt while indoors to stay warm. This traps warm air against the skin and helps keep everyone warm.
5. Change the Direction of Your Ceiling Fan
Flipping the direction switch on your ceiling fans helps your home spread the warm air that rises to the ceiling around the room, without relying on the heater.
In winter mode, the fan blades spin in a direction that first draws air up into the ceiling and pushes that air into the corners of the room. This sends warm air back down to your sweater-clad family members, which means you don’t need to raise the thermostat temperature as high.
One easy tip to remember when to change directions on your fans: Flip the switch when daylight saving time changes!
6. Close Doors and Vents
The less you heat up empty rooms in your home, the more efficiently you can heat the rooms people actually use.
You should encourage your family to close the doors to bedrooms whenever they aren’t in them. If you have an unused guest room, you should also close those HVAC vents and only open them when someone is planning to stay there.
7. Lower the Temperature of Your Water Heater
Your water heater should be set at 120 °F. Your home uses more energy than you’d expect when heating up water, and any higher than 120 °F and you’re just wasting that energy.
Also, for safety reasons, there is no reason the hot water you use to wash your hands and take showers should be hotter than 120 °F.
8. Change Your Furnace Filter
Your furnace filter should be as clean as possible at all times. The dirtier it is, the harder your furnace works to heat your home. The harder your furnace works, the more energy it uses. The more energy it uses, the higher your bills.
It depends on the size of your filter, but a good rule of thumb is to change 1-2 inch filters every 3 months, 4-inch filters every 6 months, and 5-inch filters every 12 months.
If you’re unsure, check with your furnace manufacturer for recommendations on how often you should change the filter. Once you have that information, set a reminder on your calendar that will notify you the next time you need to complete that chore.
9. Check the Seals on Your Doors and Windows
Once you’ve heated the air in your home, the goal is to reduce heat loss and prevent that warm air from leaving and keep the cold air out. To do this, you need to check all your external-facing windows and doors, looking specifically for places where your weatherstripping is cracked, broken, or totally missing and causing air leaks.
- Doors: Remove faulty weatherstripping and install a fresh seal
- Windows: Add a fresh layer of silicone caulk around the trim of the window
10. Switch to LED Lights
Old-school incandescent light bulbs literally waste 90% of the energy they consume, turning that electricity usage into heat. Thankfully, there are better alternatives!
While CFL bulbs are better than incandescent, LED light bulbs are far superior in that they use nearly 90% of the energy they consume, and can produce light that’s similar in temperature to incandescent bulbs.
Not only are LED light bulbs more energy-efficient, but they also have a much longer lifespan, which will save you electricity each month, and save you money over time when you don’t have to replace them as often.
11. Get an HVAC Tuneup
Even if you’re following our thermostat recommendations, you still need to use your heater in winter to keep your house warm. The best way to heat your home efficiently and lower your energy usage in the process is to hire a technician to check your heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) system to ensure everything is in tip-top condition.
If your HVAC needs help, the money you spend on repairs will come back to you over time as savings because your system won’t need to work as hard to heat your home.
12. Add More Attic Insulation
You’ve fixed your windows and doors so warm air doesn’t escape through those openings, but now it’s time to help your home retain the maximum amount of heat by adding more insulation to your attic.
Energy Star has created a helpful guide for recommended insulation levels based upon your location in the U.S. You can either install the insulation yourself or hire a home improvement professional to do the work for you.
13. Check Your Chimney
Your chimney is literally a hole in your ceiling that lets out warm inside air, and can also let in cool outside air if not properly maintained.
We recommend hiring a licensed technician to complete one of two steps:
- If you never use your chimney, you should just close it up and seal it so air can no longer pass through.
- If you have plans to use your chimney in the future, you should ensure it’s in proper working order for winter, and then learn how to maintain it during the summer.
How To Save Energy During The Winter Months
Lowering your winter energy bills starts by using less energy and using it more effectively. The goal of winter home energy saving tips is to start with actions that lower your usage, but don’t upset your current lifestyle and habits.
We encourage you to find ways to make these suggestions fun for your family. You could turn each recommendation into a game, or turn the entire list into a family project. The more that everyone feels like they’re working together toward a common goal, the more successful you’ll be.