Are you looking for ways to save energy and money on your electricity bill this winter? The unprecedented Winter Storm Uri of February 2021, naturally, has Texans feeling a bit timid as the temperatures drop. But with statewide weatherization efforts in place to reduce the likelihood of industry-wide blackouts, you can also personally make a difference by becoming more energy efficient.
With a few small adjustments, your home can remain comfortable while reducing the strain on the Texas energy grid and your pocketbook. Discover how to make your home more energy efficient this winter.
1. Let the sun in.
Opening blinds and curtains during the day lets in the natural light and heat of the sun, which helps warm the inside of your home. At night, close the blinds and drapes to keep the cooler air from drafting in.
2. Lower your thermostat.
It’s not unusual to have disagreements over the preferred temperature in most homes, but lowering your thermostat in the winter by just one degree can save you one percent on energy costs. Experts recommend setting the thermostat at 68 degrees or lower in winter months.
The Department of Energy also recommends lowering your temperature 7 to 10 degrees from its normal setting for eight hours a day, which can save you 10 percent on your bill each year! If you’re gone much of the day, or can brave cooler nights with heavy blankets while you sleep, those provide ideal opportunities to keep your heat running below its normal temperature. When you’re home, layer on a cozy sweater and socks.
3. Utilize a smart thermostat.
Most Texas homes have a smart thermostat, so you can save money by setting it on a schedule. Set it to warm up a few degrees to coax you out of bed on a cold morning, then lower temperatures when you leave for work and while you sleep. Many experts recommend keeping no more than a six-degree to eight-degree difference in your settings so the system doesn’t have to work too hard to heat back up.
4. Keep air vents open. Close off unused rooms.
Make sure rugs or furniture aren’t covering your air vents to keep warm air flowing freely. If there are rooms you seldom use (like a guest bedroom), there’s no need to spend energy to heat those rooms. Keep the vents and doors closed.
5. Close drafty areas.
Make sure you keep drafty areas closed when not in use, like the fireplace damper or garage door. Check weatherstripping on doors and caulk any cracks around windows and doors. You can find inexpensive vent covers for your kitchen exhaust fan, an area that you might not realize is letting in cold air. Ensure areas such as your attic or basement have good insulation and seal any gaps to keep cold air from seeping in.
6. Make smart water usage and water heater adjustments.
Many homeowners don’t think about how their hot-water usage impacts their electric bills. A few simple changes can help lower costs and overall energy consumption. Lower the temperature on your water heater so it uses less energy to heat up. Wash clothes in cold water. Take shorter showers. Finally, give your water heater a nice warm jacket by adding inexpensive insulation to your water heater and pipes. This can save you 7% to 16% in water heating costs per year.
7. Find savings in the kitchen.
Your kitchen can account for 15% of your household electricity usage. Did you know opening the oven to check on your pie costs more energy than using the oven light? It’s true! Instead, use the oven light to check your baking progress. Then when you’re done with the oven, turn it off but keep the oven door open to heat up the house. Utilize smaller appliances, like the slow cooker or toaster oven, when possible. If it’s time to upgrade larger appliances, look for ENERGY STAR ratings for efficiency. Also, remember to unplug appliances that aren’t in use.
8. Use energy-efficient light bulbs and appliances.
You can achieve the same amount of lighting for less money by simply changing your light bulbs to LED. They use 90% less energy and last 25 times longer than standard incandescent light bulbs. In the winter, it gets dark earlier and Christmas lights come out of storage. Look for ENERGY STAR-qualified bulbs and lighting fixtures for outdoor lights. While the cost may be more upfront, the energy and cost savings are tangible.
9. Circulate warm air with ceiling fans.
Fans aren’t just for summertime. Switch your ceiling fans to rotate clockwise (most fans have this setting) and run at a low speed to circulate warm air that rises to the whole room.
10. Consider your region of Texas – humid or dry winters?
Texas is large geographically, and its climate diverse. While winters typically bring dry air, the Texas Gulf Coast is humid most of the year, with its most humid month in December. But for other regions of Texas, like the desert in the western panhandle, dry air is the norm. Residents in the drier parts of the state should consider getting a humidifier, which has numerous benefits. Besides adding moisture back into the air and reducing the transmission of viruses, humidifiers make your furnace work more efficiently. Humid air holds more heat and allows you to turn your thermostat down. You can consider a portable humidifier or look into a whole-home humidifier installed by an HVAC professional.
For a comprehensive list of energy-efficient tips for all seasons, read 100 Ways to Save Electricity. With Payless Power’s daily usage alerts, you’ll easily find ways to reduce your consumption and your energy bill. Find a prepaid Payless Power plan in your zip code and start saving money today.
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