10 ways to cut your home energy bill this winter
No more indoor mittens or hot-water bottles tucked at the foot of your bed! Stay comfortable and keep your utility bills down with these energy-smart tips:
1. Caulk and add weather stripping around doors and windows to cut heat loss by as much as 25%. While it's best to apply latex caulk between 40 and 80 degrees F., silicone caulk can dry even in freezing weather as long as the surface is frost-free and dry.
2. Add heat-blocking window coverings. Keep heat in during winter (and out during summer) when you replace sheer curtains with heavier drapes or blinds. Open blinds on south-facing windows to get natural heating from the sun.
3. Insulate the attic and crawlspace. Know your insulation's R-values (R is short for "thermal resistance") and if it's lacking, beef it up to meet recommendations for your area. Adequate insulation also helps prevent indoor heat from leaking through unheated attics and rising to the roof. That's an important defense against ice dams, in which gutters freeze solid and meltwater from the roof, with nowhere to go, backs up under shingles and penetrates walls, causing damage.
4. Switch to modern showerheads. Federal regulations limit showerhead flow to 2.5 gallons per minute (gpm) or less. Many showerheads made before 1992 had flow rates of 5.5 gpm, so if that's yours, switching showerheads could cut your water use in half. Less water also means lower water-heating costs.
5. Install a programmable thermostat. Save up to 10% on energy costs when your thermostat automatically adjusts when you're sleeping or away. You may even get a rebate from your utility company.
6. Keep your wood-burning fireplace damper closed when you're not using it. That reduces heat loss through the chimney flue (make sure the fire is completely out and ashes are cold before you close it). Gas fireplace dampers must remain open at all times. Close glass fireplace doors for extra heat-savings.
7. Adjust your water heater's temperature. Use a kitchen thermometer to test the temperature of the hot water coming out of your tap. To prevent scalding injuries, the Consumer Product Safety Commission recommends 120 degrees at the faucet (your water heater may need to be set higher than 120, since water can lose heat as it travels through the system). If you can decrease your tank's temperature from where it's set now, you'll save energy and reduce water-heating costs.
A word of caution: Don't be tempted to turn down your water heater too much. That could allow dangerous bacteria like Legionella to grow. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration recommends tank temperatures of 140 degrees, at least for multifamily residences.
8. Run your ceiling fan clockwise, pushing warm air down into the room.
9. Change furnace filters monthly or according to manufacturer's instructions.
10. Use the dishwasher. Dishwashers manufactured after 2013 can clean a whole load of dishes with just five gallons of water, compared with the 27 gallons it would likely take to wash them by hand. Just make sure to fill up the dishwasher before you run it. Also, many newer dishwashers heat the water themselves, which is more efficient than drawing it from your hot water heater.
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