By Christopher DeGroot
Whether you own your home or rent it, you no doubt associate winter with spending more money on energy. But though using more energy in winter is unavoidable, there is no reason to use excessive energy. Instead, use your good sense to employ these tips to save energy, and therefore money.
Set your heating thermostat at around 68 degrees or lower during the day. Set your thermostat at 55 degrees for the night, or when you will be away for more than four hours.
Don’t block your radiators or heating vents with furniture or draperies. Also keep your radiators, registers and baseboard heaters dirt and dust free.
You can place a sheet of aluminum foil between the radiator and the wall to reflect heat back into the room.
Be sure to close vents and doors in unused rooms
. Close the damper when you are not using the fireplace and turn your heater(s) down when you are using it.
Install tight-fitting, insulating drapes or shades on windows that feel drafty.
Keep shades and curtains open during the day on the south side of your home to allow solar heating. Close them at night to retain heat.
Lower the water heater temperature to 120 degrees or “low” (140 degrees or “medium” if you have a dishwasher without its own heating element) to save money. (This is also a safety measure to avoid scalding.) Install water-flow restrictors in showerheads and faucets.
Do only full loads when doing laundry. Clean the dryer lint trap after each use, and check the dryer vent for clogging. Clean the clothes dryer exhaust duct, damper and space under the dryer. If possible, dry your clothes on a line.
Wash only full loads in the dishwasher. Use the energy saver or air-dry cycle.
Check the water hoses on the washer, refrigerator ice maker, and dishwasher for cracks and bubbles.
Use the self-cleaning oven feature only when necessary. Start the self-cleaning cycle immediately after the oven is used to take advantage of pre-existing heat. Clean the kitchen exhaust hood and air filter.
Make sure all electrical holiday decorations have tight connections. Test all ground-fault-circuit-interrupter outlets. Just because you aren’t using a charger, television or computer doesn’t mean it isn’t still using electricity and hence costing you money. So unplug your electronics when they aren’t in use. Or you can get an eco power strip which automatically cuts off the supply of electricity to computers and other gadgets when they are off.
Open the curtains on your south-facing windows during winter days to bring free heat into your home. Close your window coverings when the sun goes down to keep the heat inside. Instead of turning the heat up, put on layers, say, a cozy winter sweater and warm socks. Likewise, keep throw blankets on your couch, and add an area rug to insulate the floor.
Homes that have better ventilation and airflow can be more energy efficient in the summer and winter months. If you have ceiling fans in your apartment, you may have more control over ventilation than you realize. Ceiling fans can be used strategically to achieve better airflow: counter-clockwise will push hot air up in the summer; clockwise will trap heat inside to keep your rooms warmer during cooler months. Turn your ceiling fan on a low setting to gently push hot air back down. If you have rooms that you never use, such as guest rooms or large storage areas, close and seal off the vents in those rooms to be more energy efficient and direct the flow of air to the rooms you use most.
Keeping your furnace and vents properly maintained will reduce energy consumption and help you save money. So check your furnace filter monthly and replace it when it gets dirty. The air inside your home can become very dry. Moist air feels warmer and holds heat better, so a humidifier can help you feel comfortable when your thermostat is set at a lower temperature.
You can also increase the humidity in your apartment with a collection of house plants. Many homes leak most of their heat out of windows. In order to minimize the amount of heat leaking out of a drafty window, make sure that all of your glass is at least double-paned. Triple pane or double pane with argon or some sort of insulation material between the glass is even better. Again, hundreds of thousands of dollars in energy costs are lost each year due to escaping heat and cold air in homes without proper insulation. Get some inexpensive insulation from your local home improvement store, and cover up all those areas where heat might escape. Start with foam weather stripping for your doors and windows; it’s cheap and easy to apply. Buy new LED holiday lights, which use at least 75 percent less energy and last 25 times longer than older, incandescent lighting. Besides consuming less energy, LED lights don’t emit as much heat and are more resistant to breakage, making them a safer alternative.