5 Easy Ways to Be an Energy Star and Save Money This Winter

Are you an energy star? I try to be, but sometimes it’s hard.

I always get cranky in the summer time because the heat forces us to use the (very expensive) air conditioning. Things cool down as we move into fall, and there are a few blessed weeks where we can go without any artificial climate control whatsoever. Sadly, the joy is usually short-lived, as winter’s creeping cold soon tempts us to turn on the equally expensive heat.

This year, I’m determined to make it through the winter without paying sky-high energy bills. Looking around for the best energy-saving tips and tricks, I’ve discovered that it’s really not that hard to be an energy star. You just have to know the gadgets and behavior changes that deliver the most bang for your buck. You also have to be willing to put on a sweater every now and again.

If you want to be an energy star, use this list of five easy ways to save money this winter as your guide, and get started early! Cold weather waits for no one.

1. Close Your Fireplace Damper

Openings to the outdoors, no matter how small or easy to forget, are the mortal enemy of home energy efficiency. What’s the point of sealing windows or using draft dodgers in your doorways if your chimney is gaping open? An open damper is like a hole in the roof. Also, limit use of the fireplace, since fires actually suck heat from a room, says Harvey Sachs, director of ACEEE’s buildings program, on MSN Real Estate.

2. Insulate Doors and Windows

You can pick up plastic sheeting to form an insulating barrier between windows and the room, but why contribute to more plastic waste? In an article about how her family cuts down on energy bills in the winter, Lyn Brooks explains her method for using old sheets and blankets to add warming insulation to her house. “You can use basically any heavy, thick material, but I used some fuzzy old blankets that had faded over time. I sewed a seam at the top so I could thread them through a spring tension rod, and I hung them at the top of the windows, and used a regular curtain rod to hang them over the entrance ways into my home; this extra covering reduced my electric bill by an additional 10% the winter that I first made them.”

3. Put Your Programmable Thermostat to Work

Most modern thermostats can be programmed to regulate heating and cooling on a pre-set schedule. To be a real energy star, have a family discussion about minimum and maximum temperatures during the winter season. “Programming the thermostat to turn the temperature down 8 degrees for 7 hours each night and an additional 7 hours each weekday could result in a seasonal heating savings of approximately 12 percent. For the average home, this could result in savings of about $180,” explains the EPA.

4. Do a Duct Check

Heating accounts for 34 percent of all annual utility usage. If you have central heating, this means your ducts will be getting a workout. “To ensure that as much warm air as possible is delivered through your central system, check the ductwork and wrap any leaks with duct mastic. Distribution losses (what’s lost while air is transported from your furnace through ductwork to the vents) often amounts to 30 percent,” advises the EPA. “So, sealing ductwork could increase efficiency and the warm air you receive considerably.”

5. Put Your Water Heater on a Diet

To reduce your utility bills by 7-11 percent, lower your water heater temperature to between 115 and 120 degrees Fahrenheit. It’s unlikely that you’ll even be able to feel the difference. You can also “insulate the first 5 feet of pipe coming out of the top of your water heater or the whole length until the pipe goes into the wall if that is less than five feet. Pipe insulation is available from your hardware store,” explains The Consumer Energy Center.

How do you save energy during the winter? Share your tips in a comment!

Image via Thinkstock


Mary Donnelly
Mary Donnelly3 years ago

Useful post.

Carrie-Anne Brown

thanks for sharing :)

Donna Ferguson
Donna F4 years ago

good advice! I hate to pay my gas & electric company, since they conspired to cheat Californians about 8 years ago. I'm quite willing to dress up in many layers to stay warm. fortunately, I live 2 floors up and have 2 great windows for light and air during warmer weather. I'm very fortunate.

Jane R.
Jane R4 years ago

Another tip: Move around, cleaning, exercising etc. will keep you warmer than sitting in a chair watching TV.

Nichola Mac D
Nichola Mac D4 years ago

I've already done most of these, but hadn't thought to insulate the hot water pipe. Thanks for such a good article

Grace Adams
Grace Adams4 years ago

I signed the petition to the Senate to stop subsidies to fossil fuel firms. I would not mind if our government subsidized fossil fuel firms to turn themselves into renewable energy firms. For oil, US Navy funds Algae Systems R&D on algal bio-diesel as substitute. Even before it becomes cost-competitive, our government could expand production, partly to achieve economies of scale, partly because any expense in cutting air pollution is at least partly offset by savings on health care (Medicaid and Medicare). So we could make enough bio-diesel to offer oil firms to swap some bio-diesel to test market for enough tar sands as mineral rights to make the same amount of diesel. For gas, we need to motivate our gas firms to round up leaking methane hydrate deposits first, put off more fracking for later. For coal, most too big to fail coal mine owners also own gas and/or oil wells. Our government could start a 150MW enhanced geothermal system in West Virginia (near underground hot rocks suitable for an enhanced geothermal system, coal mines to be displaced, and electric utility with coal-fired generator to be displaced. Our government should also use Global Thermostat to capture CO2 to use as fracking/hydraulic/heat-transfer fluid in the enhanced geothermal system instead of water-based fracking fluid so as to store the captured CO2.

Fred Hoekstra
Fred H4 years ago

Thank you Beth, for Sharing this!

Carole R.
Carole R4 years ago

Thanks for the tips. We're going to need them.

Siets Dijk
Siets Dijk4 years ago

Good ones!

mary r.
Mary R4 years ago