Posted in: Homeowner tips

8 Winter energy saving tips for Midwest homeowners

8 Winter energy saving tips for Midwest homeowners

Key Insights

  • Some up-front work is likely required to help decrease your winter heating bills.
  • Replacing just one aging device on your fireplace can reduce your home’s energy loss by 75%.
  • Not everything needs a full replacement! Simply programming your thermostat and changing your furnace filter can boost your home’s efficiency this winter.

Winter is coming… and so are those astronomical heating bills. Moving forward, here are eight winter energy saving tips that can help you reduce heat loss and increase your home’s energy efficiency.

1. Replace an aging water heater

Most folks don’t think about replacing their water heater until they feel their typically hot shower plummet to colder temperatures. But if your water heater is more than 8-10 years old, it could be time to replace the appliance with a more efficient model. If this is the case for your household, it may be smart to look into:

  • A storage water heater that offers better insulation and efficiency.
  • A demand water heater, which produces hot water on demand.

This excellent guide from Smarter House can help you better understand which type of water heater will work best for your household.

2. Get an energy-efficient fireplace damper

A fireplace damper seals your fireplace when it’s not being used. If, over time, a fireplace damper cracks, rusts or warps, the device can stop closing properly. If a leak in the fireplace occurs, major heat loss and higher energy bills tend to follow.

If it’s time to replace your fireplace damper, be sure to do so early in the winter months so you can maximize savings throughout the season. In recent years, energy-efficient fireplace dampers have come on the market, and they can be easily installed by a reputable chimney service.

However, if you don’t use your fireplace at all in the winter, hire someone to fully plug and seal your chimney flue. This will keep warm air inside the home rather than flowing out the top of your fireplace.

3. Invest in a programmable thermostat

Many homeowners are still manually updating their heat settings every day — or not changing them at all during the cold winter months. This is a mistake that directly affects your heating costs, says the U.S. Department of Energy, which states that homeowners can “save as much as 10% a year on heating and cooling by simply turning [their] thermostat back 7°-10°F for 8 hours a day from its normal setting.”

A programmable thermostat makes it easy to automatically save money on your monthly heating bills. If you’re in a constant battle over the exact temperature that should be set, follow these programming recommendations from the Department of Energy:

  • Set your thermostat to 68°F while you're home and awake.
  • Lower the temperature while you're asleep or away from home.

(Hint: If you set that thermostat to begin rising 20 minutes before your alarm goes off in the morning, you may be able to get out of bed a little easier.)

4. Replace your furnace filters

If your home is heated by a furnace, be sure to check and replace your furnace filter regularly. Think of your filter like the lint trap on a dryer: If it’s full of dust and dirt, it has to work harder to run. A new filter helps your heating system run more efficiently right away and can prevent expensive maintenance down the road.

In general, you should plan to complete maintenance at the following intervals to ensure your system is running in tip-top condition:

  • Replace furnace filters every 3 months.
  • Replace furnaces every 15 to 20 years.

5. Upgrade to LED holiday lights

Whether you’re decorating a simple tree or going for a neighborhood-best holiday light display, keep in mind that your aging lights may be costing you more than you think. Upgrading to more energy-efficient holiday lights, such as LED bulbs, can provide a handful of benefits, including:

  • Lower operating costs
  • Longer operating life
  • Safer displays

Keep in mind, ENERGY STAR-certified bulbs use up to 75% less energy compared to conventional holiday lights, so you’ll want to keep an eye out for these certified strands of lights.

6. Check for air leaks and prevent drafts

Windows, eaves and doorways can all be responsible for air leaks. During the winter months, those ice-cold drafts can lead to much higher utility expenses. To check for leaks, the Department of Energy recommends this simple at-home test:

  • Shut a door or window on a dollar bill.
  • Pull on the dollar bill.
  • If the bill can be pulled out without dragging, energy is being lost.

Once you’ve identified if and where your home is leaking air, turn to caulk and weatherstripping to help seal gaps and promote energy savings this winter.

On a larger scale, leaks from your attic can have a large impact on your heating bills, and they can lead to treacherous ice dams. Act now to save energy while also protecting your roof from severe damage. Here’s a handy guide to insulate your attic and help recoup the cost of the project at resale.

Here are additional tips to save energy and avoid drafts this winter:

7. Use the ceiling fan all year

Turning on a ceiling fan during summer months to create a cool breeze is a no-brainer. But did you know that many ceiling fans offer the option to reverse their rotation? This setting helps push warm air from the ceiling into the rest of the room to circulate heat.

In the winter, Energy Star recommends the following for extra energy and dollar savings:

  • Operate your fan on a clockwise rotation.
  • Set your fan on low.
  • Adjust your thermostat accordingly when using the clockwise fan method.

8. Save even more money with rebates

If you have Xcel Energy in Minnesota or western Wisconsin, check to see if you qualify for rebates on ENERGY STAR appliances, heating or cooling systems or water heater improvements. The rebates often take money off the upfront cost and installation of products that will save you money in the long run.

Energy-efficient homes could also net you more upon resale, so you may as well enjoy these systems for a few years before selling.

Still have questions?

It’s always wise to have energy-saving systems in place to save money on your winter bills. Implement as many of these tips as possible to keep the utilities in your Minnesota or western Wisconsin home low this season.

Moving forward, are you hoping to upgrade your home’s efficiency even more? Reach out to Edina Realty or one of our agents today for help strategizing the best home choices for you and your family.

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