When temperatures drop, energy bills rise. But if you’re bracing for a hefty bill, there are steps you can take to lessen the pain.
While good insulation, installing solar panels and investing in thick carpets are all very effective at lowing energy bills, they also come with significant upfront costs. If none of these are in your budget — or you’re renting a home — what can you do?
Try the following five simple things, all of which you can do with very little (or no) money up front. Renters included!
1. Use energy-efficient light bulbs
If you’re still using old-style incandescent or halogen light bulbs, start here. Switch to compact fluorescent light (CFL) bulbs.
These energy efficient bulbs use up to 75% less electricity. Given that the lights stay on for a large part of the day, that can add up very fast. And while the bulbs themselves cost a couple of dollars more, they also last a lot longer so you won’t have to replace them any time soon.
2. Keep the temperature tepid
Not too hot, not too cold: that should be the rule for your climate control.
In winter, set your thermostat to between 18 and 20 degrees and no higher. Every degree over 20 can add a huge 10% to your running costs.
In summer, keep the temperature at 25 or 26 degrees and no lower. Similarly, every degree below 25 can add 10% to the bill.
Don’t stop at the air conditioning, either. Check your hot water system and turn down the temperature by a few degrees if you can.
If you want to feel cosy in winter, keep the focus personal. Instead of turning up the thermostat to heat a huge open space, just heat your own body or your immediate surrounds. Some ideas include:
Flannel sheets, a hot water bottle and a thick quilt to keep you toasty at night.
Thermal clothing to wear next to your skin and trap body heat in.
A cosy throw rug on the couch where you can snuggle in and read. For more indulgence, try a heated blanket. It’ll keep you beautifully warm while you’re watching TV at a fraction of the cost of a whole-room heater.
3. Wash clothes on a cold wash
Hot water requires a lot of energy to heat, so minimise use where possible. There are sometimes when it’s the only option for the family wash — muddy sports kits, anyone? — but for a lot of everyday laundry, cold water works just fine.
Other ways to save energy in the laundry include:
• Using an eco setting where available
• Making sure that the machine is set to the correct load size, so it doesn’t use more water than necessary
• If you’re looking for a new washing machine, bear in mind that front loaders use up to 50% less energy than a top loading model.
• Where possible, hanging clothes to dry outside or on a clothes horse instead of using a dryer.
4. Switch off appliances at the wall
Even when your appliances aren’t in use, they’re still using electricity. Standby mode can use over $100 per year for a standard household.
Try and develop a habit of switching off your television, microwave, dishwasher, lamps and anything else plugged into a wall socket before heading to bed. You can make the task easier by buying a smart power board which allows you to turn off standby electricity after a set time of day.
5. Block any draughts
Winter draughts can make it harder to keep your home at a comfortable and stable temperature. If you have substantial funds to throw at the problem, you could try double glazing your windows, adding extra insulation to the ceiling or investing in thick carpet over those draughty wooden floors.
For those of us on a budget, start with draught excluders under doors and even along windowsills. Thick curtains are very effective at keeping out cold night air. If you’re really desperate to keep costs down, you can try lining your windows with bubble wrap. It’s not going to be the most stylish thing in the world, but it is effective.
All of these actions add up, so you might be surprised at how much you can save!