You've worked all year, putting money aside for holiday shopping or a winter's trip to the islands, but a stunning energy bill can send your ideas packing. By now, it's pretty hard to avoid straightforward energy savings measures that are inserted in your utility company statement or that are blasted all over the media. But if you need a few refreshers, here are five tips that can reduce energy bill sticker shock.
1. Tighten down your fireplace leaks.
A million American homes have gas-fueled or wood-burning fireplaces. In cold months, you can hear the cold air whistling through them. A great way to keep your fireplace from becoming a giant energy leak is to install a fireplace draft stopper. Mother Earth News recommends fitting this temporary, two-inch-thick insulating block to your fireplace opening, further closing down any leaks with a cloth blanket. When you want to have a fire, simply pull out the draft stopper.
2. Add a two-zone or programmable thermostat.
Two-zone, setback thermostats let you warm up the most-used rooms of your home in the winter, while shutting down overall heating when you're not home. Roll out of bed to a toasty bedroom and then the power shuts down after you've left for work.
3. Install tank-less water heaters.
I discovered these were in widespread use in Japan, the Middle East, and Europe as much as 25 years ago. Rather than heating up a large reservoir of water all day and night, tank-less water heaters fire up on demand, heating just the water you need for the job. Today's models run on gas, electricity, propane, and solar power. Using one can carve out as much as a third of your total energy costs.
4. Get Your weatherstripping done.
If you feel air leaks around the door and sill, from around your windows, or through ducts in your house, you'd be surprised how the cost of installing new weatherstripping can pay for itself in reduced energy bills. Don't overlook the need for attic and crawlspace insulation, too.
5. Stay hydrated.
Depending on your climate, keeping your home humidity at least around 20 percent can make you feel warmer (raising the heat index) without necessarily running your furnace settings beyond reason. If you use a humidifier, be careful to keep the humidly lower than 40 percent or you risk condensation or mold.