How to Save Money on Your Energy Bill This Fall – Even With a Zero-Dollar Budget
Depending on where you’re located, the weather outside right now could be anywhere from a hair-raising heat wave to the first snow of the season. But with the fall solstice officially behind us, there’s no more avoiding it: Winter is coming.
Cooler weather brings a whole new set of challenges for those concerned about keeping down their energy expenses. This is true now more than ever: COVID-19 has caused many households’ energy bills to rise as people spend more time at home. When inclement weather makes outdoor activities even more difficult, many households will likely see this trend worsen – unless steps are taken now to intervene. Through energy-efficient behavior and upgrades, you can not only beat the pandemic’s energy-raising effects, but permanently lower your monthly expenses. These tips will get you started.
Zero-cost behavior changes
- Easy on the heat. Heating is the largest energy user in most homes, accounting for on average 43% of costs. The closer your thermostat’s setting is to the outdoor temperature, the less energy you’ll use. Turn down your thermostat when nobody’s home and at night – the best part of cooler weather is getting cozy under blankets or a sweater!
- Check in on your water heater. Water heating is another one of the top culprits of energy consumption. Turn down the temperature to 120˚F – for every 10˚F lowered, you can save up to 5% on water heating costs.
- Make use of sunlight. Sunshine isn’t just a mood-booster – it’s also nature’s free source of light and heat. One study even found that rooms utilizing natural light can save more than 20% on energy costs. So fling those curtains open, and optimize your living space such as by placing your desk by a window.
- Don’t let your fireplace become a heat-stealer. Fireplaces provide heat, right? Not always: Your chimney can easily become a source of heat loss and drafts. To prevent this, always close your damper when it’s not in use.
- Seal drafty windows. As much as one third of heat loss in homes occurs through windows and doors. Fortunately, there are plenty of low-cost DIY solutions, including using caulk, weatherstripping, or window film, that will save you big in the long-run.
- Maintain your HVAC. Effective maintenance of your heating system can reduce energy costs up to 40%. Schedule a maintenance check with a contractor, or follow ENERGY STAR’s checklist to identify and troubleshoot problems.
- Purchase LEDs. With the days getting shorter, it’s time to reduce lighting costs through LEDs: these efficient bulbs use 75% less energy than incandescent lighting. If you use a sun lamp to brighten your home, make sure to look for an ENERGY STAR model.
Investing in long-term weatherization
- Upgrade your insulation. Proper insulation is key to a fully energy-efficient home. You can DIY insulating around your hot water pipes to save 3-4% on annual energy costs, but improving whole-home insulation through a professional service can save up to 20% on heating and cooling.
- Revamp your windows. While DIY solutions can help, the cost benefits of replacing old windows add up: Replacing single-pane windows may even save you more than $450 a year. Make sure to research window specs before deciding on a model – some window features such as efficient coatings can reduce heat losses even more.
- Get a home energy audit. Don’t know where to start but know your home could be more efficient? One of the most comprehensive approaches is getting a home energy audit. An auditor will evaluate where your residence could be saving on energy so you can determine the most impactful places to make investments.
- Remember, assistance is out there. Many households decline to make energy efficiency upgrades due to high initial cost, even if cost benefits in the long run are substantial. But that’s exactly why public and private programs exist to help families make these upgrades more affordable. The federal Weatherization Assistance Program can help low-income households cover the costs of improvement, and most homeowners can also qualify for the Sec. 25C tax credit (up to $500) for purchasing energy-efficient equipment, including insulation, windows, heat pumps, and more. Additionally, check your local utility’s website – most offer incentives for energy efficiency.
Whether you’re ready for a few changes of habit or a whole-home efficiency makeover, there are ways you can prevent the combination of cold weather and COVID-19 from racking up your energy bills. And with Energy Efficiency Day just around the corner, there’s no better time than now.