Brrr. As excited as I am for ski season with the snow in the peaks, my house just got extremely cold. What are some ways I can save money on my energy bills without freezing all winter long?
Yes, it’s all of a sudden that time of year when we have to start thinking of ways to stay warm without breaking the bank. I sometimes find advice on energy savings to be completely overwhelming, and have actually seen websites with headlines like “101 ways to save energy at your home.” As you probably know, when people are given too many choices, they often choose to do nothing. So I’ve decided to dumb this down a little bit and just offer my top five tips for saving energy in Summit County.
Here are the top five ways to save energy and money this winter:
• Get an energy audit. By far, this is the most effective way to figure out how to save on your power bills and reduce your carbon footprint. Home energy audits evaluate your home’s overall energy performance, including insulation, heating equipment, lighting and appliances. A certified energy auditor analyzes each home with a blower door and infrared camera, providing recommendations for ways to save both energy and money. Energy audits start at just $150 for Xcel customers, because Xcel is paying $200 of the audit cost on behalf of homeowners.
• Install a programmable thermostat. Program the thermostat for a few degrees less at nights and when you’re not home, then have it raise the heat during the times you’ll be in the house. This will save you some cash without sacrificing any comfort.
• Seal up air leaks around doors or windows. We all know those spots in our houses where we can see daylight through our doors or feel the air coming in through a cracked window frame. Contrary to popular belief, replacing windows (as long as they are double-paned and structurally intact) is typically one of the least effective ways to reduce energy use. However, taking the time to caulk and weather-seal around leaky windows and doors is one of the easiest and cheapest ways to get warmer and save money.
• Turn hot water heater down to 120 degrees. You’ll still have plenty of hot water, your kids will be less likely to burn themselves, and you’ll save up to 10 percent on your hot water bill.
• Replace incandescent bulbs with efficient lighting. Compact fluorescent bulbs (CFLs) reduce electricity usage by 75 percent compared with incandescents. In terms of dollars, here’s what that means. Changing just 15 bulbs to CFLs will save you around $50 a year — and LEDs save you even more.
Once you’ve done Nos. 2-5 above, all paths lead to doing an energy audit. The High Country Conservation Center and several highly qualified local auditors would be happy to lend you their expertise on how to reduce your home’s energy use. For advice on these tips and all things energy efficiency, please visit www.highcountryconservation.org or call (970) 668-5703.
Ask Eartha is written by the staff at the High Country Conservation Center, a nonprofit dedicated to resource conservation. Submit questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.