12 Days of Energy Efficiency: Ways to Cut Your Winter Energy Bills
Of course, there are ways to keep your energy usage -- and your monthly bill -- skyrocketing each winter. Using efficient Energy Star products, for example, can cut costs by 30%.
In the spirit of the holiday season, SolarCity came up with a list of "12 Days of Energy Efficiency" to help consumers save money by using less energy at home. Where possible, we've added estimates of how much it would cost consumers to act on these tips and how much money it would save them.Day One: Take Control of Your Thermostat
Program your thermostat to a "set-back" temperature for winter nights and start saving on energy costs. A touchscreen, programmable thermostat that is rated by Energy Star can cost as little as $105. Turning down the heat to 68 degrees in the winter can save 5% to 10% on heating bills, and more by turning it lower when you're asleep or away from home.
Day Two: (Gift) Wrap those Water Pipes
Wrapping water pipes can bring the gift of saving. By insulating these pipes, homeowners can reduce their monthly energy bill by reducing transmission losses. Insulating the first three feet of pipe into a water heater is especially important and can help raise the water temperature by 2 to 4 degrees.
Day Three: Start a New Tradition: Winter Cleaning
Dirty air filters not only affect indoor air quality, they can reduce airflow, costing more during the winter months when heating is crucial. We're not talking about getting the air ducts cleaned, but buying a new air filter for a few dollars at a hardware store.
Day Four: Block Santa
This winter -- with no offense to Santa -- consider keeping him out with the cold. Keeping your fireplace damper closed when the fireplace is not in use will prevent heat loss and save money. It's another area where heat can escape from the home. If your fireplace isn't working correctly, a new damper can cost about $150 or less.
Day Five: Time Your Christmas Cheer
Though small, Christmas lights can consume an exorbitant amount of energy. Replacing traditional holiday lights with LEDs (light emitting diodes) and putting them on timers can help reduce the amount of money and energy spent on holiday cheer. LED holiday lights can save up to 90% of the energy cost of traditional lights. They're more expensive than traditional lights -- about $25 for 100 lights -- but will save a lot of money over the years.
Day Six: Bundle Up that Water Heater
Putting an insulation jacket or 'blanket' around water heaters can prevent a significant amount of heat loss. Wrapping a water heater can also save money. For $10 to $20 for a water heater blanket, you can save 4% to 9% in water heating costs.
Day Seven: Romantic Dinner for Two
Why not dim the lights for the evening and dine with your dumpling? Romance enhanced by energy savings. The average home spends $269 a year in lighting. Save some of that by turning off the lights and lighting some candles.
Day Eight: Install Compact Fluorescent Lights
CFLs (compact fluorescent lights) use less energy than regular light bulbs. Replace old light bulbs with new, energy efficient ones and look out for LED replacements, which are quickly becoming an affordable alternative. One $10 bulb saves about $40 over its lifetime. An energy calculator can help determine how much they'll save at your house.
Day Nine: Keep the Winter Cold at Bay
Weather-stripping windows and doors and sealing building leaks helps keep cold air from coming in and warm air from getting out. It's a simple way to reduce energy consumption. Ten feet can cost $6, but that can add up when you measure how much area you have to cover.
Day 10: Give the Gift of an Energy Star Appliance
What says "I care" like an energy efficient washing machine? Giving an Energy Star appliance is the right thing to do; it's a great gift that saves money and is good for the environment. Major appliances account for 13% of a home energy's use, with a clothes dryer and washer costing $143 a year to use, and a refrigerator using $95 to run for a year. Energy Star has a calculator to determine how much your refrigerator costs to run. Prices vary widely, but $1,200 can buy a quality Energy Star refrigerator.
Day 11: Get Yourself a Pair of Slippers
Sometimes, staying warm is as simple as putting on a pair of slippers. If that isn't enough, add a pair of toe warmers to add extra comfort. Keeping your feet warm shouldn't cost more than $40. And put a sweater on while you're at it.
Day 12: Unplug While You Unwind
While unwinding during your winter vacation, why not unplug your electrical appliances that are not in use? Even though they might not be running, they're still consuming energy. The Department of Energy says that 40% of the electricity used for home electronics is used when they're turned off. As AOL's home improvement editor pointed out last year, there are many devices to turn off these vampires after your gadget has been charged.
If you can't get those 12 steps done before Christmas, they're good New Year's resolutions to make.