How Will Your Electricity Bill Be Impacted by Cold Weather?

During these cold weather months you may notice an increase in your electrical usage. Just like when your electrical usage increases in the summer when you cool your house on a 90 degree day, warming your home on a 25 degree winter day will also cause a noticeable increase in electrical usage.

How can you keep your energy costs down while still keeping your home warm in winter? Try these tips!

Take advantage of heat from other sources. Studies show that for every degree above 70 your heating cost will increase up to four percent. So try to take advantage of the heat generated from other activities done around the house. For example, taking a shower generates heat. So during your next shower, open the bathroom door to let steam spread to other rooms. Just be sure not to turn on the fan, which will quickly remove the warm air.

Don’t let heat escape unnecessarily. It will take some investigative work on your end to locate any gaps or leaks where warm air can escape. Feel around windows and door frames to see if there is any cold air leaking through. If you feel cold air it means you have found an air leak. A relatively easy fix is to use caulking or weather-stripping to fill in the leaks.

Drafts can also come in through the base of doors. An easy fix is to roll up a towel like a snake and place it at the base of the door. For something more appealing, there are draft-stoppers that can be purchased in colorful designs.

Cover Your Windows. If you have window coverings on any of your windows, close them at night. This will help reduce heat loss and prevent cold air from coming in. On the flip side, keep them open during the day to let the warm sunlight in. For homes with older windows, in addition to window coverings, you can apply plastic sheeting over the whole window. It may not have the best curb appeal, but it will add a layer of insulation without blocking the light.

Put on Socks. This is an easy trick to warm your body. As much as 30% of your body heat can escape through your feet and hands, so it is helpful to put on a pair of socks. If you are still cold, try putting on a throw blanket to cover your feet and shoulders instead of turning up the heater.

Schedule Professional Maintenance. We recommend that your entire HVAC system undergo maintenance two times a year – once in the spring before summer arrives and then in the fall before winter gets here. If a heater is maintained properly it will run more efficiently. Another thing to remember is to check the filters in your heating system. They can get dirty and clogged and cause your unit to work harder to push warm air out thus increasing heating costs.

Use Ceiling Fans. Just like in the warm months, fans can help in the cooler months as well, if there is a reverse switch. When the direction of a ceiling fan is reversed, it will actually pull the cool air up to mix with the warm air; which is especially helpful in rooms with high ceilings. If you are confused about which way the fan should revolve, then stand directly under it – if you feel a breeze, the fan is on summer mode and needs to be switched.

Protect Electrical Outlets and Switches. Outdoor electrical outlets and switches can actually be a source of air leaks too. To keep the air in, you can purchase and install foam insulation pads, which are easy to install and found at most hardware stores.

Dress for the Occasion. So 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 some warm clothes. Dress appropriately by wearing layers, which traps your body heat in air pockets between the layers to keep you warm. Also, sweaters and sweatpants are helpful, and while they may not look the most fashionable, you’ll at least be warm.

Remember the Water Heater. If your water heater is older than five years or has an R-value less than R-24, then try applying insulation. This can reduce heat loss by 25-45%. This can result in savings of 4-9% in water heating costs. An easy way to add insulation is to use a water heater blanket/jacket (be sure it has a value of at least R-8).

Insulate the pipes around your water heater. This is especially helpful if the water heater is located in an unheated space. It will reduce heat loss, and you won’t have to wait as long for hot water, which can also conserve water. To insulate pipes, you can use good quality pipe insulation, strips of fiberglass insulation or for an easier fix, pipe sleeves (most commonly used).

Turn your thermostat down a few degrees. Each degree you lower it can save up to 2% on your heating bill.

Use portable space heaters wisely. If you spend most of your time in one or two rooms, using space heaters to keep those rooms warmer, and turning your furnace down to let the rest of the house stay cooler, can help save energy. This works best if you can close off the rooms you are using, and if you only use one or two space heaters. A typical space heater uses 1,500 watts of electricity and an electric furnace uses 10 times that much.

Resist cranking your heat pump thermostat by more than two degrees at a time. If you do this frequently, you will be calling up the expensive Emergency Heat to accommodate the fast blast of heat. This will not hurt your heating system but it can raise your bill if you do this often.