As a non-wealthy person, I’m constantly looking for ways to cut expenses. Besides rent, the two largest monthly bills are for natural gas and electricity. Through trial and error, I’ve managed to find ways to trim those bills down to more affordable levels.
Right now is the coldest part of the winter in Nebraska, so the gas bill is a prime concern. Sub-zero degree nights and days, mean the furnace will cycle on more frequently. I was fortunate that my landlord decided to replace the rusty, vintage Lennox furnace with a high efficiency model that squeezes every bit of heat out of the fuel.
It’s been shown that for each degree Fahrenheit you set the thermostat back over eight hours you’ll save approximately one percent on the heating bill each season. At bedtime, I habitually set the thermostat lower. Because I live alone, I can set it as low as I like. Anyhow, I sleep more soundly when the bedroom is cool.
These tips work regardless of whether you heat with gas or electricity:
In the morning, I notch up the thermostat to a comfortable level. Depending on the outside weather conditions, the perceived comfort zone varies, so the thermostat setting may be lower some mornings than others.
Once the thermostat is set, don’t fiddle around with the controls. A steady temperature is easier to maintain than adjusting it often. If you own your home or if you have a good landlord, install a programmable thermostat. It’s the best money-saving solution.
If you have a forced air furnace, be sure to change the filters frequently in order to allow the most efficient air circulation through the ducts. Also, make sure the outflow and inflow wall or floor vents are not obstructed by furniture or other items.
What about your windows and doors? Are they weather-stripped properly? Faulty windows can add as much as 25-percent to your heating bills. Replace any cracked or faulty stripping around the windows. You might consider adding a flexible “sweep” to the bottom of your exterior doors.
When the Sun is shining, open your blinds and draperies. When the Sun goes away, close them. Draperies and curtains help reduce radiation of heat from your room. If you live in a cold climate, good lined draperies are an excellent investment.
By the way, it’s easier to cope with a slightly cooler thermostat setting if you wear more clothing in the day and use an extra blanket on the bed at night. It’s amazing how many folks don’t understand this concept.
The water heater is an often overlooked appliance. Is it really necessary to have scalding hot water? We usually mix hot and cold at the tap, so why not tweak the thermostat on the water heater? Find a reasonable heat setting for your water, then you’ll have a lower energy bill.
During the winter, most of us spend more time indoors. Also, the days are shorter and the nights are longer. So, lighting is the next item to assess. I’ve been swapping out the old incandescent and fluorescent bulbs in the house with LEDs. Because they are initially more expensive, it pays to shop around.
Be careful of the applications you use the LED bulbs, read the instructions, most of them cannot be used inside fully enclosed fixtures. Some are moisture sensitive, others are not. Some of the newer LED bulbs can be used in fully enclosed light fixtures. The packages’ printed cautions will tell you how and where to use the bulbs.
My house is now almost entirely lit by LEDs. There are only a few fixtures that still use CFLs, but I turn those on very infrequently. The electric bill is lower now that LEDs are in use. In addition, I turn off any lights in rooms not occupied. If you live with other people, try to instill this habit in them, too.
There is another source of energy wasting called “vampire drain”. This is caused by televisions, exercise equipment, and appliances that use small amounts of electricity, even when they are switched off. If you don’t use that appliance very much, consider unplugging it until those rare times you decide to use it, then plug it back in. It’s amazing how much “vampire drain” can add to your electric bills.
Done right, winter time can be safe, comfortable, and affordable.