Chances are if you're anywhere in the northern half of the country, you’ve been shivering more than a little for the last month. With the first polar vortex, and now this week’s return to near-zero temperatures, millions of Americans have been slammed with snow and unbearable temperatures (which could have been even colder). The only way to battle the cold is to pile on layers of clothing and turn up the heat. If you thought your electricity and gas bill were high to begin with, wait until you get it at the end of the month. However, there are ways that you can reduce your energy use in other areas in order to help compensate for the extra heat you need to avoid freezing solid in your sleep.
The first, most logical, solution to reducing your energy bill is to turn down your heat as much as comfortably possible. For every degree you turn your thermostat down, you can save between 1-3% on your annual heating costs. There is nothing wrong with having to layer up a bit inside your home, no matter what the kids say. It’s the middle of winter, lounging around in shorts and a t-shirt shouldn’t be an option outside or inside. Also, instead of turning up the heat to make the house cozy for bedtime, layer on some thick blankets and turn the thermostat even lower. If you really need the extra heat in a certain part of your house (perhaps the living room where you spend most of your time) invest in a small space heater for that room alone and keep the temperature in the rest of the house lower than usual.
This is also a great time to look at your energy provider and see what they are doing to go green. Because why should you be the only one in this relationship making an effort? In many states where energy is deregulated, green and ecofriendly electricity companies are popping up as the go-to source of energy for many eco-conscious homeowners. Companies like CPL Energy offer “green plans” that allow their customers to choose supporting environmentally friendly energy sources versus ordinary fossil fuel sources.
In addition to this, it’s important to clean or replace the filters for your HVAC or forced air furnace at the beginning of each season. A dirty filter means the system has to work that much harder to do the same job, thus jacking up your energy bills. This is also a great time to invest in a humidifier. This freezing air is incredibly dry, which can not only dry out your skin and hair, but also suck all the moisture out of the air in your home. Moist air feels warmer than dry air, so having some moisture in the air will make it feel a bit more comfortable inside.
Of course, heating an area with drafts or air leaks is an illogical thing to do. Your money is literally flying out the window in the form of wasted heat. To prevent this from running up your bill, investigate the doors and windows in your home. Do you see any cracks or gaps at all? Does it feel slightly cooler in certain areas? Time then to invest in some caulk and weatherstrips. Even if the gap seems too small to make a different, caulking it can stop the problem before it starts. On the US Department of Energy’s website they offer a handy how-to guide on how to caulk if it’s your first time.
Aside from all of this it’s important to take stock of what you’re using inside your home. Many people don’t know this, but ceiling fans do more than just cool down a room. It’s common knowledge that heat rises, so most of the warm air in the room is around the ceiling. By switching the fans spinning direction to clockwise, it will disperse warm air down and throughout the room.
These are just a few steps you can take to help soften the blow that will inevitably come when you receive your energy bill and also reduce harm to the environment from all of the carbon emissions released during this polar vortex. It’s not difficult to see how the environment and weather have changed as a result of humans and our recklessness, so taking even small steps during this cold snap will hopefully lessen the negative impact on mother nature.