Andy Fleming writing on self-reliance

Being able to save money in clever and creative ways is a critical skill for anyone who wants to live independently…and affordably. Between the holidays and the drop in temperature, winter tends to be a big drain on our bank accounts. If you’re not prepared and haven’t budgeted properly, you might end up having to dip into savings in order to cover the jump in energy bills. This can be a big setback if you’re trying to save up for retirement, a move, or other lifestyle change.

If you haven’t already, you should start by checking out our article on saving money this winter. You’ll find some basic tips on getting your house sealed up and maximizing your home’s ability to hold heat.

You can get even more of an edge up on your energy cost by following these clever strategies for energy saving and heat-cost reduction.

1. Run your fans clockwise

Ceiling fan


When it comes to keeping the house warm, you’re probably not thinking about turning on the ceiling fans. Remember that heat rises, and there can be a significant difference in temperature between floor and ceiling. Sometimes as much as 10 F. Most ceiling fans have a switch that will allow you to toggle between winter and summer mode. You want the setting that makes your fan run clockwise. You probably want the fan to run at its lowest setting, enough that it will force warm air back to the floor, but not so much that it creates a noticeable breeze. Keeping your feet warm makes a big difference, as we tend to feel temperature changes in our extremities first, and that might tempt you to turn up the heat when you don’t need to.

2. Check your furnace filter

Furnace filter


Any home heating system with forced air and vents is going to feature some kind of air filter to keep dust circulation at a minimum. If you don’t regularly service your furnace, this air filter is probably clogged with dust. This makes the furnace work harder to circulate air and it will use more power as a result. Replacing the dust filter will make your air cleaner and save you a few dollars on electricity costs.

3. Prep your hot water heater

Hot water heater


Two simple steps will ensure you’re getting the most efficiency out of your water heater. This isn’t just for winter, prepping your heater will save you money year-round. First, check the factory settings for the machine’s temperature. A lot of hot water heaters are pre-programmed to heat water to 140°F, which is probably much hotter than you need.

Check the temperature settings on your heater and see if you can safely lower it to about 120 to 125 F. If that’s not hot enough for your showers you can always bump it back up, but it’s likely that this will be all the heat you’ll need to be comfortable.

You should also check to see how much heat your water heater is leaking into the surrounding area. Place your hands near or on the heater, being careful if it’s very hot. If the heater just feels warm, it’s probably not leaking much heat. If it’s hot, however, a lot of heat is being lost to the environment, and the heater has to work harder to keep the water at target temperature. You can fix this by covering your heater in an insulating blanket. A small Mylar blanket only costs about $5, and will trap more of that heat inside the heater, keeping it from turning on quite as often.

4. Swap your lights for LEDs

LED light


LED lights can be fitted to every lamp and fixture in your home. They use about 25% less energy than old incandescent bulbs and last up to 25 times longer. This is an especially good idea if you like to use a lot of lighting in your holiday decorations. LEDs are more expensive up front, but it doesn’t take long to reap savings in the form of energy cost. You can always pick up a few packs and gradually replace older bulbs as they burn out.

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