As a lifelong resident of Boston, I’ve lived through a lot of frigid winters. Most notably was the “snowpocalypse” of 2015, when the city got a record 110.6 inches of snow and the last snowbank didn’t melt until July.
If you live in a cold climate, you know your energy costs can shoot up in the winter months. According to the Department of Energy, oil and natural gas heat prices have gone up by over 20 percent in 2016. What can you do to keep your utility bills low without turning into a human popsicle?
Check out these 11 household hacks to save money and keep warm all winter long. With these winter life hacks, you can stay cozy while keeping your energy bills low.
1. Install a smart thermostat
If you live in a cold climate, you know that you should turn the thermostat down when you’re at work to save money. In fact, turning the heat down seven to 10 degrees for eight hours a day saves you 10 percent on heat, according to the U.S. Department of Energy. But have you considered a smart thermostat that adjusts the temperature automatically?
Smart thermostats are connected to Wi-Fi, allowing you to set a heating schedule from an app on your phone. One popular smart thermostat, the Nest, learns your preferences and adjusts the temperature on its own. According to independent studies, Nest saves people 10 to 12 percent in heat usage.
2. Weatherproof your windows
Can you feel the winter winds coming through your windows? If you have drafty windows, then you’re losing a ton of heat. Homeowners should consider investing in energy efficient double pane windows. Alternatively, you can apply shrink and seal wrap to your windows. It will be well worth the effort when you feel the temperature increase and see your heating bill go down.
3. Use humidifiers
The air gets seriously dry in the winter, and dry air tends to feel even colder than it is. To trap heat, add moisture to the air with a few humidifiers. Who knows, you might even save money on moisturizer, too.
4. Reverse your ceiling fans
In the summer, most ceiling fans rotate in a counterclockwise direction. If you have the option, you should switch them to clockwise in the winter. This direction pushes heat down and helps your home stay warm.
5. Choose your heat source
According to NPR, gas heat is the cheapest heating option and oil heat is the most expensive. People with gas heat paid an average of $635 in the winter of 2016. Those in the Northeast paid closer to $900. Households with oil heat paid more than twice that.
From personal experience, I’ve found oil heat to be very expensive. I briefly lived in an apartment with oil heat, and it was the priciest winter of my life. Propane is also an expensive option, while electric heat costs less. If you can, opt for an apartment with a more affordable heat source.
6. Change the filter in your furnace
If your home has a forced-air heating system, then you should change the filter at least once a year. The filter collects dust to make the air clean and fresh. When it gets clogged, the system has to work harder to heat your home. With a clean filter, the furnace can heat your home faster and use less energy.
7. Seal the space under your doors
You know how you want to cover any bare skin before going outside in January? Treat your home the same way. If there are open spaces, heat can go out and the cold will get in. Seal off any spaces under doors with a draft stopper or an extra towel.
8. Block off rooms you don’t use
Another way to save money on heat is to block off unused rooms. There’s no point spending money and energy to heat spaces that you don’t occupy. Keep the door closed and revisit that room once spring rolls around.
9. Don’t let your water pipes freeze
Have you ever had your pipes freeze and burst overnight? Broken pipes can set you back hundreds of dollars in repairs and water damage. Plus, you’ll have to do without warm water in the cold winter months. To prevent freezing, set the faucet to drip on especially frigid nights.
10. Take advantage of the sun
Don’t forget about nature’s heat source. To warm your apartment or house, open the blinds to enjoy some direct sunlight. But don’t forget to close them again in the afternoon and evening. That way, you can collect and retain heat from the sun’s rays.
11. Embrace the Danish concept of hygge
The Danish concept of “hygge” (pronounced “hooga”) suggests coziness, warmth, and comfort. With long winters and short days, Danish people have embraced candlelight, wool socks, and fuzzy blankets. By embracing “hygge,” you might enjoy the winter more — and save money on your utility bills.
What to do with the money you save from these household hacks
To become a master at personal finance, you need to take control of your budget. Examine your spending, and look for places to save. With these household hacks, you’re already saving by reducing your utility bills in the winter months.
According to US News, energy bills average $183 per month in the winter. Simple winter life hacks, like closing off unused rooms, can save you up to $200 each year. And turning your thermostat down for eight hours a day can save you about $20 a month.
With an estimated $400 to $500 a year in savings, you could easily pay off your student loans more quickly. If you make automatic deposits to a retirement savings account, for instance, you could raise the monthly amount. Anyone paying off student loans could increase their monthly payments.
Whatever winter life hacks you try, you should see a significant decrease in your energy bills. For more frugal tips that will help you pay off student loans, check out this guide.
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