Stay Warm without Breaking the Bank: Tips for Saving Energy this Winter

5 Things You Can Do to Reduce Your Winter Energy Costs

Shanna Cleveland

Over the past few weeks, there’s been a lot in the news about increased electric rates and the prospect of high prices this winter, but no one has been telling you the whole story. Here at CLF, we’re working to build a thriving New England for all people, and making sure that people are able to stay warm without breaking the bank is a big concern for us.

In fact, CLF and its allies have called on utilities and regulators to increase investments in energy efficiency and fuel assistance to help consumers, but now, with the first really cold weather of the season bearing down on us, in an effort to help our members and anyone else who is worried about energy prices this winter, here are 5 Things You Can Do to reduce your winter energy bills:

1. Energy Efficiency Audits. Whether you’re a renter or an owner, you can get a free energy efficiency audit to identify the areas where you’re losing the most heat and how to fix it.
2. Prep your Windows. Windows can be a major source of letting heat out or letting cold air in.  Make sure that you put up your storm windows. If you don’t have storm windows, or if your windows are leaky, there are some inexpensive ways to stop your heat from leaking out without risking your security deposit:
Plastic film to seal your windows. These are easy to install, inexpensive, and can save between $18-20 per window per winter. You can usually find these at your local hardware store. 3M, WJ Dennis and Duck Brand are some of the most common brands.
Thermal curtains can also stop drafts and won’t necessarily break the bank. Target, Ikea and Bed, Bath and Beyond have a large selection.
3. Get to know your heating system. Ask your landlord if s/he has a pre-season tune-up done and when the air filter was last changed. Air filters should be changed every three months for maximum efficiency.
4. Turn down the thermostat on your water heater. According to the Department of Energy, water heating can be the second largest energy user in a home, accounting for up to 18% of an energy bill. The DOE estimates that you can save $12-30 for every 10 degrees that you lower the thermostat. If it’s set at 140, you can lower it to 120 to save energy without giving up hot showers.
5. Install a Programmable Thermostat. You can save between 15-20% on your heating bill by programming your thermostat so that it isn’t heating your home when you’re not there. These thermostats range widely in cost from $30-300, but you can recoup the cost within a few seasons or even more quickly if you take advantage of rebates.

Reducing energy use is one of the most cost-effective ways to keep your energy bill low, and it helps to cut down on greenhouse gas emissions.

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7 Responses to “Stay Warm without Breaking the Bank: Tips for Saving Energy this Winter”

  1. With a bit more work at the start, you can make simple interior storm windows using the same kits – but building a frame for them to go on that then fits into your window (with foam weatherstripping around the frame, so it just pushes into place). The possible problem is that you need somewhere to store the interior storm windows for the summer. It makes weatherizing all your windows each year a simple task… once you have them built in the first place.

  2. Good morning… I’ve been trying to get the attention of the region’s utiltiy companies that participate in the state and utility run energy conservation incentive programs. Programs like Mass Save were designed to engage with the residential and business segments to assist in energy efficiency activities. Within the residential sector, the engagement has not gone well; one partner of ours (they asked that we do not use their name) stated that the up-take rate (the rate at which engagements are converted to energy efficiency implementations) is less than 20 percent.

    The reason we’ve been trying to reach out is quite simple. In our dealings with National Grid, New Jersey Natural Gas and Sustainable Jersey, we’ve had some success on the business side of the equation with our SEE The Light Energy Toolkits (SEE=Save Energy Every-day, deployments to School and Municipal customers). Our SEE The Light Home Energy Toolkits are designed for homeowners and tenants putting the power of energy conservation directly into their hands. We think that the up-take rate would be better if utilities sent the SEE The Light Home Energy Toolkits as a way to better engage with their customers. When customers can use the simple products and tools included within these Toolkits, they discover that energy conservation doesn’t require “freezing in the dark.” When they read the well articulated Workbook provides additional ideas for energy efficiency (no-cost, low-cost and investment-level) that will steer customers to the utility programs for greater up-take and implementation conversion rates. The SEE The Light Home Energy Toolkits establish a trust level when customers are able to see their utility billed usage decrease.

    As a long-time contributor to CLF, I know that it is part of CLF’s mission to influence the efforts to curb climate change. Our behavior & device-based customer engagement toolkit can help state and utility-run efficiency programs better succeed at their goals through enhanced engagement and efficiency implementations. I’m hoping that CLF will want to take a look at the SEE The Light Home Energy Toolkits and may want to assist us with some advice and perhaps a higher-level entree to the utility programs administrators. With energy prices about to soar in 2015, we think it’s a good time for residential customers to SEE The Light. Thanks.

    Gary Markowitz

  3. We totally agree! New houses are a completely different animal than old houses. In addition to sealing the windows, it is important to make sure that they entry ways to your home are sealed as well. Old and cracked doors can let heat escape too!

  4. Shanna, my parents are moving to Michigan in a few months and they are really concerned about the potential heating costs. I really like your tip about getting a programmable thermostat. I have also heard really great things about heating pumps and that they are low cost. I will pass these tips on to them when they move!

  5. Saving on the heating bill is something that everyone wants to do. Making sure that your heating service is running properly before the winter months hit can definitely keep some cash in your wallet while keeping your home warm at the same time. Checking to make sure that it is functioning properly and efficiently annually should be a priority as you prepare for the winter.

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