You can feel the chill in the air, the winter breeze starting to nip at your nose, and the holiday spirit bringing warmth to homes across the country. With all the extra entertaining and energy needed to keep your home extra cozy this winter, we wanted to help you find ways to lower your electric bills this season. I mean, who doesn’t want a little extra spending money during the holidays. So let’s bring down our bills and bring on the eggnog with an electric bill intervention.
1. Limit Or Stop Using Space Heaters
Space heaters are a huge energy sucker in homes. A small one can cost anywhere from $20-$50 a month if you are running it constantly when you are home. They can be cost effective if you are turning down your thermostat and just using it to supplement heat in one room (the room you are spending time in). But when people use them in place of a gas furnace to heat their home, they will end up spending a lot more. In fact, the Minnesota Chamber of Commerce says that when used to heat a whole home or business, gas furnaces cost 43 percent of the cost of using electric space heaters to heat the same area.
2. Look For ‘Vampire’ Electronics That Suck Energy
When you are turning off the space heater to lower your electric bill, it would also be wise to look for vampire electronics in your home – or the things that can suck energy even when not in use. These can be things like coffee makers, phone chargers, TVs, computers, and anything you keep plugged in waiting to be used. Have you seen the little blue lights glowing on your electronics even when they are standing idle? Those use energy, too.
If you want to save money, unplug items when not in use, buy smart power strips that will shut down your outlet, or set your computers to sleep mode. Your wallet will thank you.
3. Choose Energy Efficient Bulbs/Appliances
According to the U.S. Department of Energy, replacing your home’s five most frequently used light fixtures or bulbs with models that have earned the ENERGY STAR can save up to $75 each year. That means getting rid of the traditional incandescent bulbs and replacing them with CFLs or LED lights.
Buying ENERGY STAR rated appliances like a refrigerator, dishwasher, and washer and dryer can also help lower energy costs. According to ThisOldHouse.com, you can “save $80 per year in energy for the fridge, $110 annually on utility costs for the clothes washer, and $30 a year on utilities for the dishwasher.”
4. Make Sure Your HVAC is In Top Shape
While having a natural gas or propane gas furnace won’t cost you much for electrical consumption compared to gas fuel, our resident HVAC expert Keith Hill says it’s still significant enough to be a concern. Keith, technical support manager at Minnesota Air, says keep your HVAC system clean and get regular maintenance checks to prevent overuse and overheating.
“It’s the circulating fan motor (blower motor) that consumes most of the electrical energy in a fossil fuel-burning furnace,” he says. “A standard multispeed motor consumes anywhere from $70 to $250 of electricity in the winter months, depending on furnace size (larger furnaces have larger motors) and electrical rates (utility rates vary). Older motors may be less efficient and will consume even more.”
Keith says there isn’t much that can be done to limit the energy consumption by your existing motor while you are using it, but you can replace the motor with a new high-efficiency ECM motor.
“These new motors can be retrofitted into most older furnaces and will bring the electrical consumption down to a range of $30 to $100 for the heating season,” he says. “More money will be saved if you operate your fan continuously during the heating season, and the same motor drives the air for cooling so you save money year round.”
Keith says the new motors are available in newer furnace models, so if you are considering a motor upgrade and you have a furnace older than 10 years old, it may just be smart to upgrade to a new furnace now.