Ready or not – winter has settled in!
Whether you’d planned to bunker down in the mountains or shelter the winter winds in the Texas plains, one thing you should do in addition to having the parkas and mittens at the ready is to evaluate your home’s winter energy efficiency plan. It’s still not too late to take this step.
Keeping your home energy efficient can help keep the cold outside and lower your home’s energy usage – which can lead to lower energy bills, too. Here are a few simple tips to help you save energy this winter.
With so many delicious holiday feasts on the horizon, the oven can be a focal point of the entire meal. However, your kitchen can also consume a large portion of your home’s energy efficiency budget. An energy smart kitchen will save you dollars and cents in the long run.
When you’re cooking in the kitchen, remember that the “no peeking” rule doesn’t just apply to gifts under the tree – it also applies to the oven. Leave the oven door shut during the cooking process, as each peek can cost you 25 degrees and force more energy usage as the oven reheats.
If you’re cooking with a stovetop or electric oven, you can usually turn the heat off 5 to 10 minutes before the dish is done as the lingering heat will finish the job.
Smaller appliances can also save a lot of energy when you cook. An energy efficient microwave, crockpot, toaster oven, or warming plate will use less energy than a standard oven and could be a good addition to your Christmas wish list.
For instance, most toaster ovens use half the energy as the average electric stove in the same amount of cooking time, according to the Department of Energy. It will save you money and it’s unlikely that your guests will notice the difference in how you prepared the meal.
Another tip is to keep your freezer full. Empty space can lead to higher energy consumption because of warm air circulating whenever you open the door. This warm air can cause the equipment to work harder to maintain the cold temperature.
In short, purchasing extra chicken nuggets for the kids and another container of ice cream isn’t a bad idea for stay-at-home days, snow-ins, or the ever-looming school closing due to COVID-19 spikes.
Kids will tell you that having a clear path to the fireplace is important so Santa can bring their gifts in on Christmas morning. However, we’ll tell you it’s equally as important to check this area for heat loss before cold winter air hits Texas.
The Department of Energy recommends that you keep the fireplace damper closed whenever a fire is not burning. Keeping it open allows heated air to escape through the chimney.
“When you use the fireplace, reduce heat loss by opening dampers in the bottom of the firebox (if provided) or open the nearest window slightly–approximately 1 inch–and close doors leading into the room. Lower the thermostat setting to between 50° and 55°F,” the DOE says.
If you have a fireplace and never use it, you should also consider plugging and sealing the chimney flue to save energy.
Very few things beat a warm shower or hot bath in the cold winter months. But both indulgences can consume a substantial amount of energy as the winter drags on – especially when holiday guests are competing for every last drop of hot water.
One way to decrease the expense of heating water is to use common household insulation for water heater tanks as well as wrapping it around the first 6 feet of water pipes. Think of insulation as a cozy sweater for your pipes. Just like wrapping up in your favorite cardigan, the added layering will help seal in the ambient heat of the pipes, allowing you to enjoy energy savings.
Check your doors and windows for any gaps that can allow unwanted cold air in and heated air out.
You should also check the insulation and seals around windows and doors which can generate a savings of up to 10 percent of total household energy expenses. This includes attics, basements, exposed floor joists, and any flooring surrounding crawl spaces. Winterizing kits and draft guards can help with windows and doors, respectively. This can be a daunting task for elderly or disabled homeowners, so contact a contractor if you need assistance.
Here’s one to remember for next holiday season. Choose wisely when it comes to selecting the holiday light strands to wrap around your house this year. Decorative lighting is a staple of the holiday season, whether you’re the Grinch of your neighborhood or the area’s Clark Griswold. However, poor lighting choices can have a major impact on energy consumption, as it can increase the cost of power bills over the coldest winter months.
Energy.gov recommends replacing the twinkle strands or grandma’s antiquated bubbler lights with more efficient alternatives such as LED strands that will help manage power output inside and outside of the home. Many light brands are Energy Star certified and some have timers to lower wasteful usage.
Jackie Whetzel is a reporter who has written articles on energy, government, business, economic development and education. Her work has been featured in newspapers across the country. You can find her on Instagram.