January Money Diet Day #8 – Lower Your Energy Bill

Lower energy bills | January Money Diet

It’s January 8th, and we’ve now successfully crossed the one-week mark in the January Money Diet. I want to thank all of you who have taken time to share your ideas and experiences in comments this week. It’s so inspiring to hear how you’re saving money this month, and I appreciate how many of you have shared wonderful goals and action plans for getting financially strong in 2016.

I also want to welcome the new dieters who are just joining — so glad you’re with us! Just jump right in, and feel free to participate and comment on the topics covered in earlier posts.

Today we’re going to explore ways to save money by lowering our home energy bills. We’ll enjoy the financial rewards of our efforts when our utility bills are lower than usual.

The January Money Diet is an excellent time to experiment with some new energy-saving strategies. Here in the Northern hemisphere many of us are facing larger-than-normal energy bills due to colder-than-normal temperatures. Our friends in the Southern hemisphere are in the middle of summer and facing cooling challenges. Either way, being especially mindful of energy use is an excellent way to save money — and help the environment.

These are some energy-saving ideas for you to consider:

Get Caulking

Drafts increase home energy use 5 to 30%, according to the U.S. Department of Energy, with 11% of a home’s heat loss occurring through poorly-sealed doors and windows. If you already have caulk or sealing supplies on hand, go around your house when the temperatures are nippy and find any places where you have leaks. Sealing up air leaks now will permanently reduce the amount of expensive heated air that escapes, and will also help keep your home cooler during hot temperatures.

You DIYers might enjoy reading about my incredible discovery when I removed a piece of window trim beneath a drafty window last year. You never know what you’ll find in a 1970s home, but over time we have made many improvements to seal up the leaks and drafty areas.

Get Cooking

Baking and cooking not only warm us on the inside, they help warm the kitchen, too. If you don’t have young children or curious pets in the home, you can leave the oven door propped open after you turn off the stove to let some of that warm air escape and heat the room.

Let the Sun Shine In

On sunny days, open the blinds or drapes to allow the sun to shine in and warm your house with passive solar energy.

Dress Right

Before turning up the thermostat, try throwing on a sweater. It’s much less expensive to warm you than your whole house. Dressing in layers helps trap heat, and sometimes just adding a camisole or undershirt can make you feel much warmer. Good socks will help your toes stay warm, too.

Check Your Furniture

January is a great time to rearrange the furniture, and while you’re at it you can make sure that sofas, beds, bookcases and chairs are not blocking any heat vents or radiators.

Find the Right Water Temperature

There’s nothing better than a hot shower or bath on a chilly day. On the other hand, we don’t need to continuously heat all of that water in the tank hotter than it needs to be. (If you have an on-demand water heater, this tip doesn’t apply.) You may wish to turn down your hot water heater a degree or two and see how you like it. Maybe it’s fine, maybe another degree or two down wouldn’t hurt — either way, it’s just an experiment. (The U.S. Dept. of Energy recommends a water heater setting of 120 degrees F.)

Bust a Move

Exercise, dance, clean the house, run up and down the stairs — just get moving to increase your blood flow and circulation, and you’ll feel warmer.

Get Cozy

We keep warm blankets in the family room so we can snuggle up on the couch while we’re watching movies. You might also like to try sleeping with flannel sheets or an extra blanket on the bed at night. January is a great month to experiment with turning down the heater by one degree. Okay? Try another degree. We have warm comforters on our beds, and we’ve grown to love sleeping with the heat turned down, cozy under the covers.

Light Right

If you have some CFLs or LEDs on hand, are there any old incandescent lightbulbs you can switch out? I was amazed how much our bills went down as we transitioned away from incandescent bulbs.

Try eating dinner by candlelight, or light an oil lamp for light occasionally this month. (My son loves it when we do this). Get in the habit of always turning off lights when you leave a room, and take advantage of natural sunlight whenever possible.

Unplug Sneaky Energy Draws

Anything with a little power light on is drawing electricity, which means our plugged-in DVD players and stereos and coffee grinders and power drills are costing us money and wasting energy when we’re not using them. Unplug appliances so they don’t use power while sitting idle. Plug appliances you use often into a power strip with an on/off button for added convenience. Every little bit helps.

Be Snug As a Bug

Area rugs will help warm up hard floor surfaces. You can also reduce drafts under doors by making your own door draft stopper from materials you already have on hand.

Run the Ceiling Fan

This always seemed counter-intuitive to me until I tried it. Warm air rises, so if you reverse your fan to a clockwise direction and run it on the very lowest speed, the blades will gently push the warm air back down into the room. This works best in homes with tall ceilings.

Cover Drafty Windows

My insulation guy told me this trick: Close your blinds at night with the blinds pointed upward toward the ceiling so that cold air isn’t drawn into the house. Even when the blinds are open during the day, I tilt them slightly up to reduce drafts.

Be sure to close drapes and shades at night to keep the heat in. We buy window film kits on sale in April and use them to line a couple of drafty windows the following winter; I’m always amazed at how well they work. Some people cover their windows with bubble wrap for additional insulation; I haven’t personally tried that, but if you already have the supplies you may want to experiment.

How about you?

What are your favorite ways to save energy in January? If you try any of these ideas this month, will you share your experiences in the Comments section of this page? We’d love to hear about your experiences.

Hugs and stay cozy,

The signature for Eliza Cross

Photo: Geir Tonnessen

About Eliza Cross

Eliza Cross is a full-time writer and the author of a dozen books about food and home design. She has been blogging about simplicity and sustainable living since 2006.

January Money Diet Day #8 – Lower Your Energy Bill

  • Mila

    We close off half the house and turn the unit to that side down to 60•
    I desperately need a new doggie door as the flap lets in cold air. I can’t close it off because our old dog will just use the carpet in front of it and not let us know.
    I will me order one tomorrow. I know this is a budget diet, but I really feel we will save money for now and years to come with this purchase.

  • Catherine Godfrey

    Saving energy is a battle in my house. Just my husband & I. He want dress warm to keep the heat low. I’d love to keep the heat off completely, but HaHa not.

  • Katy Emanuel

    We keep our heat low in our home 64 during the day and then turn down at night and wear layers and warm slippers. We have area rugs down in the winter in all rooms with hard surface flooring. We closed doors on rooms that are not in use during the day and turn heat off in those rooms, turning it on just before bed on minimally since we have lots of blankets on beds. We are lucky to have lots of windows that are west and south facing so really provides a fair amount of heat during the day, but we close up all curtains in the evening. Definitely agree baking and cooking helps to warm the house. We also put the plastic sheeting over the old windows that we haven’t yet replaced to prevent drafts during the winter. Slowly as we renovate we are also adding insulation under our floors which has made a big difference.
    We run dishwasher and washing machine/dryer during off peak hours only. I hang most clothes on the line or racks rather than using the dryer. We are lucky to have loads of natural light so lights aren’t required much, and when it is dark out we only turn on the lights that are absolutely needed. We unplug all small kitchen appliances and computers/chargers when not in use. The tv’s etc are on power bars which get turned off when not in use.

  • Lynn Louise

    We keep our house very cool. No one is really home during the day much so it stays at 63 and believe it or not we turn our heat down to 56 at night. We sleep upstairs and heat rises so sometimes it is really warm at night and I can’t sleep when it’s hot so we turn the heat wayyyy down. It is super cold waking up in the morning but it makes me move faster to get going and get dressed. On the weekends when we are home we get the wood fireplace going and it really warms up the living areas. Our entry door needs some weather stripping as I can feel the cold air. We actually have the weather stripping so just waiting for my husband to put it on. Our lights are always off when we aren’t in the room and I think we are usually very good when it comes to saving energy. We even have a clothesline in our furnace room so we can hang the heavier winter clothes to dry. Saves money and saves the clothes. Trying to use the dryer less. Also washing only full loads instead of smaller loads saves water and the environment.

  • Marlyn

    Bought power bars after the last hydro hike. Everything is off when not in use.Biggest thing is to use power at the right time of day.

  • I love this list! I’m always cold in the winter, but this year I’ve tried a new counter-intuitive approach, and it seems to be working really well.

    This was actually inspired by an article I read which suggested that one reason we’re all so fat these days is that we live in climate controlled environments. The article went on to explain that exposure to the cold – or at least to extended periods of “cool” – is what triggers our body fat to change from the white variety (the bad kind) to the brown variety (the good kind). Further, it is brown fat, and only brown fat, that the body can burn to stay warm.

    So armed with this knowledge, and bolstered by an account I read of a fellow who had lived in a house heated only by a wood stove, who swore that if you give your body a chance to acclimate to the colder weather, you actually feel warmer, I decided to try the radical approach of turning down the thermostat.

    I’m not goin’ whole hog or anything, but I’ve been keeping it set at 64 over night, and 66 during the day – bumping it up to 68 for a few hours in the evening when I seem to get chilly. Remarkably enough, I’m actually warmer this year than I used to be when I had it set at 73 during the day and 68 at night. Plus, I seem to be doing better outside – not needing such a heavy jacket etc. – like it’s not so much of a shock to my system or something.

    So hey… burning fat, staying warmer and having lower energy bills… what’s not to love? The only thing is that one of my cats, Jasper, tends to get really cold so I bought him a heated cat bed and now he’s happy.

    I’m curious to know if this is all just some crazy placebo effect, or if anyone else out there has ever experienced this magic “staying warm by being cooler” thing.

  • Kim

    We use a programmable thermostat in the winter months. It is set to go down an hour before our bed time and to go up a half hour before we get up in the morning. Just put an extra blanket on the bed for chillier nights.

  • Michael @ So You Think You Can Save

    I actually need to do some recaulking around windows as it’s just started to get hard and pieces are coming loose, so I know that’s letting in draft. My problem is I don’t make it look nice enough, but I guess maybe practice will make perfect? 🙂

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