A simple adjustment to the thermostats in your home can save you money. And don’t worry about having to be too cold or too hot inside your home. Neither do you have to put up with luke-warm hot water. The adjustments you need to make are small but the savings in energy and cash are definitely worthwhile.
Let’s look at your home heating first. Did you know that heating and cooling represents about 20% of the energy costs in an average household? It makes sense, then, that this is an area where you can make some savings, for both the environment and your bank account.
It doesn’t matter what method you use to heat your home or how severe the winters are where you live, the principle of turning the thermostat down is the same. When it’s cold outside, we tend to over-compensate by setting our heating to a really cozy level. An adjustment of just two degrees is all that is needed to save money and energy.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency states that, as a general rule, lowering the thermostat by two degrees represents a 1% saving in energy. In climates where a furnace is used to send heat around the house via heat ducts, the saving tends to be higher because it doesn’t have to work so hard to distribute the heat. The same would apply to homes that are heated (and cooled) by ducted air-conditioning.
In milder climates, where individual room heating is used, the same principle applies. If you use a gas or electric heater that has a controllable thermostat, set it a couple of degrees lower and enjoy the cash savings off your winter power bill.
Another great strategy I heard about the other day is to change your regular thermostat over to a digital one, if you have an older model of furnace or heater. A digital thermostat is programmable, meaning you can set the temperature to vary at different times of the day. You can also vary the temperature settings for different seasons.
“Why would you want different temperatures at different times of the day?” I hear you ask.
At night, when the family is sleeping, the house can be a bit cooler. In fact, sleeping with the temperature too high can cause sleep disturbance and cause you to wake up feeling sluggish. Everyone is snuggled under the bed covers anyway, so it makes sense that the house temperature can be lower. It’s cheaper to add another blanket to the bed than use extra power keeping the house unnaturally hot.
The same applies during the day; you’ll want to wake up to a warm house but as the day wears on and you are moving around, you will still be comfortable if the temperature is 2 to 5 degrees lower. Again, it’s cheaper to add another layer of clothing than to pay for extra energy to heat the house.
Also, when no one is home during the day, the house doesn’t need to be so warm (or cool). Naturally, you don’t want the house to get so cold (or hot) that it uses extra energy to get back up to temperature when you get home. So, you can set the thermostat several degrees lower and program it to ramp up the temperature about an hour before you are due to get home. You’ll be amazed at how much this strategy alone cuts your energy bill; government figures show that reducing the temperature (called setback) by 10 to 15 degrees for eight hours, will save between 5% and 15% in heating costs. This particular study refutes the belief that allowing a house to cool down (or heat up) when not occupied, will actually cost more in heating because more energy is used bringing the temperature back up.
Experts recommend a thermostat setting of 78 degrees minimum in summer, when you are home, and 62 degrees when the house is empty. Using these figures will allow you to save 10% off your energy bill.
Now let’s look at water heating. Heating water in the home accounts for 25% of power costs; around $500 a year for the average household. So, this is definitely another area where savings can be made.
Traditionally, most households heat the water to too high a temperature and then have to add lots of cold water to make it a usable. It makes sense, then, to lower the temperature, add less cold water, use less power and enjoy the cash savings.
If there is a thermostat on your water heater, set it at 120 degrees. If there is a general setting of low, medium and high, set it at medium. In summer, you might be able to set the temperature even lower, as we tend to use warm rather than hot water when the weather is hot. Government figures show that, for every 10 degrees you lower the temperature of your hot water, you will save 3 to 5% in energy.
The most energy-efficient type of water heater is the tankless variety; these heat the water instantaneously as required. Considerable heat is lost through the walls of a storage water heater; if you have one of these, install an insulation blanket (at a cost of $10-20) to reduce heat loss of 45%. This in turn will save you another 9% off your power bill.
Use these strategies to lower the energy usage in your home, help to protect the environment and save money at the same time.
I would love to hear how you have saved money on heating. Please share.