The other day I asked my family in Texas, “How do you afford those electricity costs in this heat?” They asked me, “How do you afford those heating costs in the winter?”
Being a resident of the Midwest, high energy costs are a very real threat to my budget every year. Depending on where you live, heating and/or electric bills can both melt and freeze your budget if you are not careful.
I’ve learned some nifty tricks to help lower my energy bills year round. Keep in mind that I’m about as unhandy as you can get but I can do all of these things…and so can you!
- Turn off lights whenever they’re not in use. If your co-inhabitants don’t make a habit of turning them off too, quit trying to get them to do it and just do it yourself.
- Make sure to turn off the cable box and unplug anything you’re not using. One thing I’ve been meaning to do is put the TV and cable box on a timer. By the time I’m ready to use it, the cable will have reconfigured itself and be ready to go.
- Window coverings can be a great way to beat the beast. Try decorative thick-fabric curtains or lines drapes to keep out UV rays in the summer and chilly winds in the winter, while keeping your style intact! Covering west and south exposure windows can really keep the house cooler in summer. In the winter, be sure to keep all the windows covered, particularly at night.
- Sealing gaps around windows and doors is easy to do. It makes the house more comfortable and can save you significant energy costs. In my bathroom, I could feel the cold air blowing in around the window. It just wasn’t sealed properly! I took off the trim (carefully so as not to damage it) and used spray foam to seal it up.
A couple of tips for the not-so-handy-person like me:
- The spray foam expands a LOT, so go easy! You can always add more.
- You may want to experiment on paper first to get the hang of it.
- It also sticks to everything so clean up immediately.
- After the foam quits expanding, you’ll want to cut off any excess and then put the trim back on.
- There are other ways to stop air leakage around windows. Check out greenhomeguide.com.
- One of the very easiest ways to lower energy costs is to use foam gaskets in the electrical outlets of your house. The purpose of the gasket is to create a barrier between the inside and outside of your home. Keeping the air you want in from escaping, and the air you don’t want from intruding!
All you need is a screwdriver. The gaskets themselves are very cheap. You may even want to cover the interior outlets, including the light switches. More info at: http://energy.gov/energysaver/articles/tips-sealing-air-leaks
- Managing your thermostat can really beat the beast! In winter, I keep my house at 67 degrees while I’m home and 55 while I’m out. I also wear sweaters and warm fuzzy socks so I’m not tempted to crank up the heat on those bitter Wisconsin winter nights. In summer, I try not to use the air conditioner much at all. I try to trap the cool air from the evening and overnight. Then, I close the house and window coverings in the morning. http://energy.gov/energysaver/articles/thermostats
- And one last budget buster – get on the Budget Plan with your utility provider. You’ll pay the same amount every month; this avoids those unpleasant surprise bills. You can usually set up a budget plan online or by phone. Just contact your utility company.
Here’s to a greener planet…and a greener wallet!