Winter months can be brutal — bringing freezing temperatures and increased heating bills to homes across the country.
But the good news is that there are a few things you can do right now to keep your home warm and the costs down.
Tips to keep your home warm and costs down
1. Replace your lightbulbs
LED light bulbs use between 80% and 85% less energy than the incandescent bulbs (the ones you use in lamps) they replace, according to Consumer Reports. And while LEDs used to take a long time to make up for the money you spent on them, prices have dropped, making them a much better deal. And on top of being more energy efficient, LEDs also last longer — an estimated 23 years — so switching over will save you a lot of money over time.
According to CR, replacing just five of your most frequently used lightbulbs with energy-saving bulbs can save you up to $75!
For more details, check out Consumer Reports’ lightbulb ratings.
2. Lock in a low price
In roughly 25 states, you can comparison-shop for the best prices on natural gas, because prices are set by the open marketplace, rather than by regulators. If you live in one of these states, you should take advantage of this savings opportunity by locking in a low price for 12 months as soon as possible. (See if your state is deregulated.)
If you are in a deregulated state, Google your state’s Public Service Commission. You can find published monthly energy prices from all providers and do comparison shopping using apples-to-apples data.
Remember, there is no difference between a therm or a kilowatt from one company vs. another. The only difference is the price! So shopping the market is so key.
The rates usually reset once a month. You can typically lock in a fixed rate for 6 to 24 months, depending on the rules in your state. Shopping for this stuff may not be fun, but it can save you a whole lot of money on a bill that comes every month like clockwork.
3. Use a programmable thermostat
Using a programmable thermostat can save you at least 10% per year on your heating and cooling costs. By programming it to fit your schedule, the device heats (or cools) your home when you need it to — like, say, when you’re on the way home from work — instead of wasting heat, energy and money all day long while no one is even there. You can also program it to heat certain parts of the house more than others, if there are areas you rarely use etc.
The best part is that these types of thermostats have gotten pretty easy to use — and if you’re the least bit handy, you should be able to install one yourself. If you need guidance, the owner’s manual can walk you through any help you need.
Read more: A look at the Nest thermostat
4. Open the curtains
You may be surprised at how much heat a little bit of sunshine can bring into your home. If you leave the curtains open during the day to let the sun in, it can be a great way to keep the place heated until dark.
It also helps if you don’t have drafty windows. And according to Consumer Reports, energy star qualified windows can lower your energy bills by 7% to 15%.
When you replace your windows, it’s important that they match the weather needs in your area. If it’s time for you to change out your windows, check out Consumer Reports’ top window picks.
5. Keep air flowing
To keep things running smoothly, you need to make sure you keep your heating and cooling systems in good shape. Experts suggest checking your furnace filter every month and replacing it every few months to make sure nothing is blocking the airflow, like a build up of dust or anything else.
Read more: Ways to reduce your utility bills
6. Replace broken appliances with energy-efficient models
Replacing older appliances with newer and more energy-efficient ones is a great way to save money over time. But since replacing appliances isn’t cheap and if your older models are running fine, just wait until something breaks or doesn’t run smoothly anymore and then look into energy-saving machines, which can save you a pretty good amount on both your electric bills and your water bills.
7. Get tax credits
You can qualify for hundreds of dollars in federal tax credits for installing energy-efficient appliances and upgrades. For example, you can get 30% of the cost of a geothermal heat pump through 2016. Check EnergyStar.gov for complete information on federal credits. (DSIREUSA.org lists all available state incentives.)
8. Reverse ceiling fans
Put your ceiling fans in reverse during the winter months — so they run clockwise. This will allow the fan to push the room air up toward the ceiling and force the warm air down — helping to heat the room without giving you the wind chill effect.
9. Use zoned heating
Close off rooms and areas of the house you rarely use in order to keep the heat in the areas that you do use.