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10 Tips for Conserving Energy This Winter

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Creative Commons photo by Flickr user Pirate Alice
[Image credit: Pirate Alice at Flickr, Creative Commons license]

According to the US Department of Energy, over 1/3 of Americans’ energy bills goes towards heating their homes. By taking steps to reduce the energy devoted to home heating, you can lower your CO2 emissions by hundreds to thousands of pounds. As temperatures drop this winter, there are a few things you can do before reaching for that thermostat. The average American spends $1900 annually on energy bills, so on top of conserving fossil fuels, these tips should save you some cash, too!

  1. Make sure your heating system is in good condition. Before turning on the heat this winter, change your heating system’s air filter. Take a peek at your ducts and seal up any holes in the joints using shiny foil tape with a UL-181 label or with duct mastic. You can check the owner’s manual for additional maintenance tips to keep it running efficiently.
  2. Keep that thermostat at 68°F. For every degree you lower your heat in the 60-degree to 70-degree range, you conserve 5% of your energy use. Snuggle up in a warm sweater instead of turning up the heat. Bonus: your cats are extra cuddly when it’s a bit chilly in the house!
  3. Take advantage of the sun! Open your curtains during the day, and let the sun’s energy warm up your house. Pull the curtains at night to help stop heat from escaping through the glass.
  4. Seal around your windows and doors. Check around window and door frames for cracks or leaks where cold air could be seeping in. You can seal these up with caulk. For larger gaps, check out your local hardware store for sealing solutions.
  5. Be a draft dodger. Warm air can escape under exterior doors. Seal up these areas by keeping a rolled up towel pressed against the bottom of the door, dorm-room style. If you want to get fancy, WikiHow has a great tutorial on making your own!
  6. Turn down your hot water heater. Make sure it’s set to “normal” or 120 degrees. Any hotter is just a waste of energy.
  7. Practice a little feng shui. Set up your rooms so that places where you sit and sleep are not near big windows or exterior walls, wherever possible. If your sofa, bed, or desk has to be near exterior walls or a big window, you might add a little warmth and flair with some heavy curtains over that window or a cheery wall-hanging.
  8. Invest in a programmable thermostat. According to the EnergyStar website, you can save as much as $180 per year on your energy bills, so these things pay for themselves pretty fast. By setting your heat at a lower temperature while you’re away or sleeping, you’ll see big energy savings without sacrificing comfort.
  9. Cover your floors. If you have tile or hardwood floors, you can keep things cozy by laying out an area rug, especially if you have a basement or crawlspace.
  10. Don’t turn off those ceiling fans – reverse them! I know, it sounds crazy. Why would you run your ceiling fan when it’s cold outside? Your fan is actually a great way to keep warm air circulating in your home. Most come equipped with a switch to reverse the direction that the blades turn. By flipping the switch and setting it on low, you can use your fan to push warm air that’s trapped up at the ceiling down to the living area.

If you want to go a step further, try contacting your local utility company for an energy audit. The EnergyStar website also has some great tools for assessing your home’s energy efficiency!

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