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As Winter Approaches: Minimizing Energy Costs

September 24th, 2009
Written by James Druman

As winter fast approaches, so does the cold, and with it rising energy usage, taking a toll on the environment and your wallet. aswinterapproachesAs a child, I used to love winters for those days at home when I could curl up on the couch with a book, a heavy blanket, and a hot cup of hot chocolate or tea. It didn?t bother me that the air was colder.

So steam heat up some tea or chocolate and start using these basic tips to keep energy consumption low when upgrading your home is not possible.

The Air – A lot of your energy consumption comes from heating costs. Install a programmable thermostat to maintain different temperatures when you are home and when you are away. When running heaters with automatic control, close doors leading to empty rooms. Open curtains facing the sun when it is shining to take advantage of passive solar heating, and at nighttime or on cloudy days keep them drawn to hold in the heat, especially if you don?t have energy-saving windows.

Also, keep your furnace nice and tuned. Replace or clean furnace filters once a month. You can save up to 5 percent on heating costs by keeping your furnace lubricated and stocked with a clean filter. Turn your central heating down by 1 degree and you can save up to 10 percent on heating costs. Replace weather stripping on windows and caulk drafty air leaks to make sure you?re keeping warm air in and cold air out.

The Water – I know…I know. The last thing anyone wants is give up hot showers when the air is chilly. Still, most people keep their water too hot. Keep your hot water heater set at 120 degrees. Many manufacturers set their heaters at 140 before sending them from the factory, but this is completely unnecessary in the average home. You can also insulate your hot water heater to keep the heat from dissipating. Click here for some tips.

Another great way to make your heated water usage as efficient as possible is to install a hot water heater timer so you it is only warm at the times of day when it is needed. It is crucial to most of us to have hot water flowing in the winter, but it is it really necessary 24 hours a day? Here are some great tips on insulating.

Your Body – When it comes to warmth in the home, you’re really worried about yourself. Make the most of your body heat and bundle up. Get comfortable when hanging around the house – no one is going to see you. Wear a beanie, nice warm pajamas, and wool socks. Keep some down comforters near the couch for when you’re watching television.

aswinterapproaches2Keep in mind that layering provides more warmth than thick clothing. The first time I went to Europe I found this out and made it through a month of backpacking in snowed-over German cities without a jacket. And where I?m from it doesn?t even snow.

Also, there is a common misconception that people sleep better when they crank up the heat, but research shows reasonably cool temperatures to be more conducive to healthy REM. If you?ve ever tossed and turned in sweaty blankets in the summer heat or the tropics, this makes perfect sense. Don?t go too extreme though?really cold temperatures can be disruptive?and keep your socks on because having cold feet will not make you sleep better.

Most importantly, stay active. When you?re home, work around the house. Get involved with the community when you?re not working. Play sports or join a club. When you?re constantly on the move, you don?t have time to get cold, and it is a lot healthier in many ways than sitting around all day in a heated home watching television.

By employing these simple tips, you can have a comfortable winter without cranking up the energy costs. You will find that you don?t even notice the differences in the water temperature, and even if you drastically reduce the air temperatures you will soon get used to it. Staying warm as the weather fouls doesn?t have to mean Neanderthals hunched around a fire in a small cave – just use your brain.

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