Most of North America started 2014 with a harsh reminder that winter is here to stay. Though the polar vortex has now all but passed, residents across the continent are sure to see more cold weather before spring rolls around. Staying comfortable and warm during a deep freeze can be expensive, especially if your home isn't winterized. Here are four easy ways to keep your electricity and gas bills low without sacrificing comfort.
Manage your water heater: According to the U.S. Department of Energy, water heating can account for as much as 25 percent of the energy consumed in your home. The easiest way to reduce spending is to lower your heater to the warm setting (120 degrees). This is plenty hot for comfortable showers, without the risk of burning yourself. To reduce the stress put on your water heater, purchase an insulating jacket. These typically cost $20 and will pay for themselves within a year.
Seal air leaks: Have you noticed any drafty spots in your home near doors or windows? If so, warm air is escaping and cold air is getting in, forcing your heating system to work even harder to maintain the set temperature. Use caulk for cracks in window and door frames and weather stripping for the bottom of doors and windows. In total, this can save up to 20 percent on heating costs.
Bundle up: Decreasing the temperature in your home by a few degrees can made a big difference in your monthly energy bill. By dressing a little warmer around the house and using blankets in common areas you can stay comfortable in a cooler room.
Adjust the thermostat: Lowering your thermostat 10 to 15 degrees for 8 hours per day can save as much as 15 percent on your heating costs. Lowering the thermostat while you are out of the house or asleep can add up to savings very quickly. If you own a programmable or smart thermostat you don't even need to manually adjust the temperature, making saving energy and money even more convenient.
While keeping energy prices down can be a key part of meeting your budget goals, personal safety should be your top priority. By taking a few extra measures to winterize your home, you may be better equipped to stay warm and save. There are plenty of other ways to save, and websites such as SaveOnEnergy.com, Inhabitat.com and Energy.gov all have resource centers with numerous options to help you manage your energy consumption and spending throughout the year.
Rose Haywood is a tech writer and freelance marketing consultant. She hails proudly from Asheville, NC but resides for the time being right outside of Atlanta, GA. Feel free to reach out to her directly via twitter.