Q: I am concerned about the forecasted colder winter with higher than normal snowfall and colder than normal temperatures. I want to plan now and save on my energy bills. What can I do?
A: With the cold New England winter approaching, now is the time to prepare your home and change your habits to help save energy and lower your utility bills. Every little bit adds up and makes a difference, and here are the top 10 things you can do to save on your energy bills this winter:
1. Get your furnace tuned up and change the air filter: Scheduling a regular tune up can help save you hundreds of dollars in heating costs per year. In addition, changing your furnace filter monthly (or when it’s dirty) will help keep your system running more efficiently.
2. Clean and uncover vents: Check to ensure that all air vents are open, unblocked and free of debris. Otherwise, your furnace will be working to push out warm air that will never reach its destination.
3. Close your chimney damper: Keeping your chimney damper tightly closed will prevent warm air from escaping your home.
4. Unplug appliances: Shut down and unplug appliances when they are not in use, especially computers and video game systems. Sleep mode may be convenient, but it drains a considerable amount of energy.
5. Change your habits: When the air gets chilly, train yourself to reach for a sweater or blanket before raising the thermostat. Also, remember to shut off lights when you leave a room, unplug phone chargers when you are done with them, and set a sleep timer on TVs and lamps at night.
6. Install a programmable thermostat: Set your thermostat to drop at least 10 degrees during the day when no one is at home and at night while everyone is sleeping. This slight adjustment will have no effect on your comfort level, but it will make a big impact on saving energy. The U.S. Department of Energy estimates that you’ll save 10 percent off your utility bill just by installing a programmable thermostat.
7. Seal air leaks: There are generally lots of gaps, cracks, and openings around windows, doors, plumbing and electrical. Gaps around windows and doors can be sealed with caulk and weatherstripping and expanding-foam sealants can be used to fill larger gaps sometimes found around plumbing and electrical.
8. Wash your clothes in cold water: Almost 90 percent of the energy that’s used by your washing machine goes towards heating the water. Wash your clothes in cold water and watch your savings start to pile up.
9. Install a low-flow shower head: Older shower heads can put out as much as 4 to 5 gallons of water per minute. New low-flow shower heads can put out as little as 1.5 gallons per minute while still feeling like there is substantial water flow.
10. Upgrade to Energy Star appliances and products: Energy Star rated appliances including refrigerators, washers, furnaces, etc. use a fraction of the energy that non-rated appliances use. In addition, Energy Star certified windows and doors can help lower your energy bills substantially while keeping you more comfortable in your home. Did you know that windows and doors account for up 21 percent of the air leakage in your home?