As the days get cooler, utility bills usually start to creep upward. When the Colorado cold really kicks in, utility bills can become too much for many families to bear. Luckily, there are some simple and concrete things that can be done to help slow the upward creep or even reverse it, freeing up money for other needs.
Cold air creeps in through the smallest gaps. Check your windows and doors. Use caulk or expandable foam. Check around pipes and other areas where you can feel even a hint of air coming in. Neoprene insulating foam can be bought for less than a dollar to place behind your outlet plates.
Invest in a programmable thermostat
Programmable thermostats can be found for as little as $25 at your local home improvement store. You can set your thermostat for several days at a time, with cooler temperatures at night or hours when you are not typically at home. Newer programmable thermostats such as the Nest can even be controlled with your smartphone from a separate location.
Pay attention to your windows
This seems so simple, but people often overlook their windows. Allow sunlight in during the brightest hours for natural light and warmth, but close your blinds or thick curtains when the sunlight is not direct. Cold air seeps in, and your heat can seep out, so you want to cover them to prevent this. Think about using an insulating film on your windows. According to some studies, true insulating films can retain over 50% of your home’s heat during the winter months.
Use the microwave, pressure cooker, and toaster
Don’t waste energy with heating your large oven to simply make a piece of toast. If you can make something using a smaller appliance, you will save substantial energy. 6 hours of a crock pot versus six hours of an oven for a Sunday pot roast requires a lot less energy. 3 minutes in an efficient microwave uses a fraction of the energy that 1 hour in the oven requires. If you need to use the oven, multitask. Roast veggies and a chicken for the rest of the week while you make a meatloaf. Make muffins while you are baking a pizza crust.
No one likes to replace air filters. It is often that task at the bottom of the to-do list that gets pushed to the next week, and then the next. But air filters are very important in energy efficiency. Good air filters prolong the life of your heating and AC units, and make them run better. Buy multiples and put them on your calendar to replace as recommended. Or buy a reusable filter than you can take out and hose off. Whichever works better, just have a standing date to replace your filters.
Turn things off when not using them
Again, this step seems so simple, but it gets overlooked! Unplug items that are not in use. That old cable box that you don’t use and your family’s five wall chargers for phones? Unplug them! Computers and televisions and other electronics should all be unplugged when not in use. The energy from even the smallest appliances left plugged in adds up over a year.
Cold water is your friend
Cold showers are probably not realistic on a regular basis, although they might make your morning cup of coffee unnecessary for a wake up call. Take shorter showers, but more importantly, use cold water when possible. Clothes can be washed on cold, dishwashers can be set on the shortest and coolest cycle. Turn your water heater down to 120 degrees. This temperature is still hot enough to be sanitary and comfortable, but much more efficient than 140 or hotter.
DSIREUSA.ORG is a website that lists rebates and incentives available for buying energy efficient appliances and materials. You can search by your state, and it is updated on a regular basis. Whether you are looking for solar energy or appliances, this is a great resource to check as you become more efficient.
Energy Star ratings
As you make your home more energy efficient, look for Energy Star ratings. From light bulbs to major appliances, Energy Star rated products are proven to be money savers. Even if they are slightly more expensive to purchase, they must save money over their lifespan to be awarded the rating.
Be efficient with your usage
Be aware of how you use your appliances. Run a full dishwasher. Run a full (but not overfull) washer. If you must use your dryer, dry several loads in one block of time. Keep your fridge full, so that you are not simply cooling empty space, but don’t keep it so full that air cannot circulate.
All of these steps are easily doable. Whether you implement them all at once, or do a couple of things at a time, watch your energy bill stop creeping upward from your warm and efficient home!