9 Ways to Slash Your Home Utility Bills This Fall & Winter

Posted by Laine Smith on 10/12/16 1:49 PM

Topics: Saving Money Home Improvement Homeowner Tips Home Maintenance Energy Efficiency

Energy efficient home maintenance tasks probably aren’t on your list of favorite fall activities. Nevertheless, these home improvements and home maintenance fixes will keep your cool-weather utility costs a little bit lower this fall and winter.

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Maintain Your Furnace

Having an HVAC professional take a look at your heating system can do wonders for your wallet and your system’s efficiency. Though a tune-up can cost $75 to $100, soot buildup, dusty or poorly lubricated fans, faulty pilot lights and loose fan belts can add hundreds to your heating bill each year.

On another note, if your furnace is 15 years or older, making strange sounds, requiring yearly maintenance calls, and your heating bills have skyrocketed, it might be time to invest in a new furnace.

Check Your Insulation Levels

According to the Department of Energy, you can reduce your heating and cooling needs by 30 percent simply by adding a few hundred dollars worth of new insulation, granted your home is in need to begin with. Homes more than 25 years old typically have an issue with proper insulation as building codes were not as mindful of energy efficiency.

Homeowners tend to focus on attic insulation, which should be at least 11 inches deep for fiberglass or rock wool insulation, but don’t ignore your levels in crawl spaces, ceilings, basement walls, and recessed lighting.

Cover Up Your Water Heater

Water heating accounts for 18 percent of your home’s consumed energy, according to the U.S. Department of Energy. Double-check the temperature of your water heater. Anything above 120° F is unnecessary.

If you have a relatively new hot water heater, you can probably skip this step. Many older model water heaters have to work double-time as they lose heat in the winter. If your model is older, grab an insulation blanket to help keep the heat inside of the unit instead of your utility closet.

Maximize Fireplace Efficiency

If you have a fireplace, put it to (proper) use. Follow these steps to maximize your fireplace’s efficiency:

  • Keep the damper closed unless a fire is burning – an open damper is like an open window.
  • Use grates made of C-shaped metal tubes to draw cool room air into the fireplace and push warm air back into the room.
  • Hire a chimney sweep to inspect your fireplace and chimney, preferably before the heating season. They will be able to spot and fix any efficiency and safety issues your chimney may have.
  • If you do not have dampers in the bottom of the firebox, open the nearest window slightly – approximately one inch – when the fireplace is in use. Close doors leading to the room to maximize heat production.

On another note, if you have a chimney and prefer not to use it, plug and seal the chimney flue to prevent heat loss. Some homeowners even purchase an additional item called a chimney balloon to prevent airflow. They run around $50, come in various sizes for different chimneys and can save you up to $100 in heat loss each year.

Get a "Smart" Thermostat

One of the coolest home gadgets of 2015 was The Nest Thermostat. By upgrading your thermostat to a smart edition, you'll save an average of 10-12% on heating bills (and 15% on cooling bills) as The Nest learns the temperatures you like and self-programs for comfort and energy efficiency.

Do Dishes Mindfully

Heading into the holiday and entertaining season, you’re likely to be spending more time in the kitchen and more time hovered over the sink. Using your dishwasher uses half the amount of energy and nearly 5,000 less gallons a year than doing your dishes by hand, according to ENERGY STAR.

Make sure you wait to run your dishwasher until the load is full and skip the pre-rinse, as most newer models are efficient and powerful enough to do that part for you. 

Switch Out Old Bulbs

The end of daylight savings time means longer nights and a need for more interior lighting. If you’re still buying regular incandescent light bulbs because of a cheaper upfront cost, you’re better off in the long run by switching now. By exchanging your regular incandescent bulbs to CFL or LED models, you’ll save over 65% of your energy usage, according to the U.S. Department of Energy.

Seal Drafts

Though drafts coming from your windows are a sign that you need to have them replaced eventually, quick fixes can get you through the cooler seasons. Replace or repair weather stripping along window sashes and doors. Insulating window treatments or using caulk to seal small cracks can also be used as effective short-term remedies. 

Invest in a Humidifier

Cool temperatures mean drier air and dry air feels colder than humid air. An energy-efficient humidifier can help you feel warmer without budging your thermostat.

Interested in making some larger scale home improvements? Download our free Rehab & Construction Guide for ways to include the costs of your renovations, remodel or home improvements into your mortgage.

Download: Rehab & Construction Guide

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