Being green this holiday season doesn’t just mean finding the perfect tree for the living room or composting the fruitcake that’s still hanging around since last year. The cold weather means it’s time to batten down the hatches (literally and figuratively) to save big on heating costs. Last year Pepco customers in DC and Maryland that only had electric heating used just over 600 kilowatt hours more of electricity to stay warm in January than cool in July. We spoke with Ronnie Kweller, a spokesperson for the DC-based Alliance to Save Energy, about ways to stay warm while spending less when the weather outside is frightful.
“The most important thing is just making sure your home is nicely sealed and air tight,” says Kweller. Older homes may be under-insulated, and all those tiny leaks can add up to the equivalent of a three-square-foot hole in your wall. Sealing and properly insulating your home can save you up to 20 percent on your energy bill, she explains. Seal the area around windows and doors with weather stripping and caulk, and close up electrical outlets on exterior walls with foam gaskets.
Audit Your Energy
District residents can get a free energy audit and there are several companies in the region that offer them for a fee. “They will give you a written report identifying areas where you’re wasting energy, what you need to do to fix them, and exactly how much it will cost,” says Kweller. Or you can perform your own audit by lighting a stick of incense and taking a tour of your windows and doors. If the smoke blows inward, you know you have a leak.
It’s nice coming home to a warm and cozy house after a long day, but heating an empty home just for this creature comfort is a waste of hot air. Programmable thermostats will keep your home cool when you’re gone and warm when you’re not, saving you up to 10 percent on your heating cost, says Kweller. These thermostats will also save you money in summer.
They may be more expensive, but replacing your old incandescent Christmas lights with modern LEDs can equal big savings. A string of 140 LEDs uses about the same amount of power as just one of the old seven-watt bulbs, says Kweller. “That is quite a huge savings.” LEDs also last longer, break less, and reduce your risk of fire.
When shopping this holiday season, look for Energy Star labels. “Their testing and reporting has improved, and we feel that it is a great thing for consumers,” says Kweller. Depending on what you are replacing, a new Energy Star-approved product can use up to 30 percent less energy than your old one, she says. And the label is not just for appliances. Everything from gifts such as Blu-ray players to home improvement items like new windows can be Energy Star certified.
Odds and Ends
Doing a lot of small things can add up to big savings.
- Keep curtains and blinds open on the sunny side of your house during the day to naturally heat your home. Just make sure to close them again at night.
- Check your furnace filters once a month. They are often reusable and cheap to replace.
- Remove chargers from the wall when not in use, because they continue to draw power even if nothing is plugged in.