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Winter Tips

During severely cold weather, customers use more electricity and natural gas to heat their homes and businesses. Outdoor temperatures drive home energy usage more than any other single factor. While none of us can control the weather, we do encourage customers to take steps to reduce energy usage and lower bills as much as possible during the winter months. We advise that you focus your efforts on the biggest energy users – heating/cooling systems and water heating.

A heating system on average uses 60% of a home’s energy. It can even be as high as 85% with electric-resistance heated homes. As outside temperatures drop, heating systems must work harder to maintain a home’s set temperature.

Heat Pumps:

  • If you have an electric heat pump, in winter only, find the lowest comfortable setting, and don’t change it. Set it and forget it. The Department of Energy recommends a setting of 68 degrees. Every degree you lower the setting will save you money.
  • When you adjust the thermostat on a heat pump system, even by just one degree, it automatically forces the less economical back-up system to start running. This can be costly!
  • If you are leaving your house for a few days, turn your heat down on your heat pump system.

Other Forms of Heat:

  • For other forms of heat (natural gas, oil, propane, geothermal, electric furnace and electric baseboard), adjust your thermostat as needed daily, and throughout the day. The Department of Energy recommends a setting of 68 degrees (or lower).
  • If you’re gone for several hours or more, set the thermostat at 55 degrees, or even cut it off (unless pipes are in danger of freezing). Be sure to turn the thermostat down at night, and cover up with blankets.

It is less expensive to turn your heating system down or off during the day when the home is unoccupied. It takes less energy to bring the inside temperature up to your desired comfort level it would if you left the system on all day.

Space heaters are electrical resistance heat and, therefore, are expensive to operate. It can be economical, however, to use a space heater in a small, unheated area such as a bathroom for short periods of time. It is cheaper to heat a small room with a space heater than to raise the temperature of the entire home with the central heating system. Space heaters running on high cost 18 cents/hour to operate. That may not sound expensive, but there are 720 hours in a month. Running a space heater constantly will cost $129.60 by the end of the month.

Using a space heater to warm small areas for short periods of time can be economical. If you use the space heater to warm up one small room for 30 minutes in the morning, you can have that added comfort for less than $2.70 on your monthly bill.

Be sure to keep furnace filters clean, and make sure your heating system is operating efficiently. You can save 10 - 15% on energy costs by keeping your filters clean.

Make sure your home is well insulated and air-tight.

Weather strip and caulk windows and doors to seal small cracks.

Water Heating:

Next to heating the home, heating water is the second largest user of energy—accounting for about 20 percent of the family’s energy budget. In order to save on your water heating use:

  • Fix the drips. One drop of hot water a second is nearly 500 gallons a month wasted energy down the drain.
  • Take a shower instead of a bath. An average shower requires half the water of a bath.With showers, not only are you paying for the water, but you also pay for sewer costs, which are based on the amount of water that is used. And, you are paying to heat the water! So in essence, you are paying three ways for each shower you take. Showers are still more economical than baths.
  • Install a flow restrictor to your showerhead to save hot water. Flow restrictors limit the flow to 3 gallons or less per minute and can save $25 a year.
  • Don't keep hot water running while washing dishes or shaving.

Insulate your water heater and set the temperature as reasonably low as possible. Although manufacturers used to set water heater thermostats at 140ºF, most households usually only require them set at 120ºF. For each 10ºF reduction in water temperature, you can save between 3%–5% in energy costs.

Call Energy Services at 252-551-1521 for specific information about reducing energy usage and lowering your bill.