Financial Literacy for Everyone

10 Ways to Save on Winter Utilities

Itís easy to rack up hefty electric bills, especially during the cold winter months ó most families have a house or apartment to heat on top of their usual utility costs. According to the Alliance to Save Energy, the average American household spends about $1,400 each year on energy bills. So why not cut down what youíre spending this winter and after with these small, simple changes? You wonít just save yourself hundreds of dollars a year; youíll help to protect the environment, too.

1. Fix air leaks in doors and windows. Weatherstripping your doors and windows can shave up to 30% off your energy bill. To detect leaks, shine a flashlight into the edges of doors and windows and have someone outside see where light is shining through. Youíll find step-by-step instructions for choosing and installing weatherstripping to patch leaks here. For details on home weatherproofing aid for low-income families, click here.

2. Insulate your attic. Itís one of the most cost-effective ways to keep your home warm. Experts recommend R-30 to R-69 insulation in the attics of most homes. If you already have the right amount of attic insulation and youíre still having trouble keeping your house temperate, consider adding insulation to your walls or basement as well.

3. Check heating filters once a month and have your unit serviced annually. Although there will be a minimal cost up front, this can extend the life of your heater. A dirty filter will make the system work harder, using more energy (and costing you more) in the process.

4. Take care when setting your thermostat, keeping the temperature as low as youíre comfortable with. Wearing a coat inside may be a little extreme; but using a blanket and wearing an extra layer can be manageable and offer you significant savings in the long run.

5. Install a programmable thermostat to save about 30% on your energy bill each year. With a programmable thermostat, you can set your AC or heater to turn off after youíve left for work and to come on a few hours before you arrive home.

6. Seal off rooms that arenít in use, keeping the doors and heating vents closed. Keeping windows and doors closed as much as possible will help to retain heat in your home, lowering the amount youíll pay for gas.

7. Buy energy-efficient appliances. Year-round, you can save up to $400 on utility bills by replacing old appliances with energy-efficient units. Just look for the Energy Star label or refer to the Energy Guide label on the appliance for energy consumption details. For more on buying energy-efficient appliances, click here.

8. Set your water heater to 125 degrees or less. While youíre at it, consider installing a water-saving showerhead. This can shave up to $100 per year off of your utility bill.

9. Use new LED holiday lights instead of older strings of lights; LED lights use up to 99 percent less energy. Unplugging lights before bed and leaving the house will also help to keep costs down.

10. Replace traditional light bulbs with compact fluorescent bulbsóthis is a great way to save any month of the year, but particularly during seasons with shorter days and fewer hours of light. Although fluorescent bulbs generally cost more up front, they last an average of ten times longer. Plus, youíll save up to $60 in energy costs over the life of the bulb.

Making these small changes to conserve energy will keep you from sticker shock during some of the most costly months of the year for utilities. And improving the energy efficiency of your home can even make you eligible for certain tax credits. Find out whether you could be eligible at the Alliance to Save Energy website.

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