My gift to you: 12 ways to cut winter energy bills!

As Atlantans freeze their booties off I thought it would be appropriate to share 12 ways to lower your winter heat bills and help winterize your homes.

From AOL’s Wallet Pop Economizer:

“Powering a home costs the average U.S. household $2,160 a year. While heating and cooling a home are the primary energy guzzlers, appliances also consume their fair share.”

“Of course, there are ways to keep your energy usage — and your monthly bill — skyrocketing each winter. Using efficient Energy Star products, for example, can cut costs by 30%.”

“In the spirit of the holiday season, SolarCity came up with a list of “12 Days of Energy Efficiency” to help consumers save money by using less energy at home. Where possible, we’ve added estimates of how much it would cost consumers to act on these tips and how much money it would save them.”

Some examples of the tips are:

1.Switch to an Energy Star programmable thermostat. We did switch a few years ago to a programmable thermostat, and it is so much nicer to know exactly what the temperature is set on. Also it had four programmable times so you could set it to rise and fall throughout the day depending on when you were at home.

(Another tip I would add, one of our houses had triple-paned windows, and it made a huge difference in how energy efficient the house was. The previous owners had put them in and they were pricey (I think around $14,000) but we consistently had low electric and gas bills.)

2. Wrap your water pipes.

3. Clean air ducts and replace air filters. Our air guy told us this as well.

4. Close your fire damper when not using your fireplace.

5. Use LED Christmas lights and put them on timers.

“LED holiday lights can save up to 90% of the energy cost of traditional lights. They’re more expensive than traditional lights — about $25 for 100 lights — but will save a lot of money over the years.”

6. Put an insulation jacket around your water heater. This makes me very nervous but I guess it’s safe.

Check the site for other six tips. I don’t want to steal their thunder.

So have you already done any of these tips to help make your home more energy efficient? How else are you winterizing your home? Are you worried about high heat bills with these low temperatures? Are you worried about your water bill letting your faucets drip so they don’t freeze? (I am!)

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Who left the door open?

December 14th, 2010
6:33 am

I am dreading my heating bill….keeping it on 70 and still freezing in my house, except when my 19 year old decides to jack it up to 80! Saw LED lights the other day, will wait until they go on sale after Christmas and then use next year….and maybe one day, when this economy is better and my kids are out of school, I can get some better windows…until then, blinds closed!

Ken G

December 14th, 2010
7:06 am

This is all great, but in this economy most people can not afford to take these steps. I am unemployed so most of these steps are just not an option to me right now, and I am scared to death what my power bill will be, and I keep the heat set low …and use a lot of blankets. Just hoping things get better soon

First time poster

December 14th, 2010
7:27 am

This won’t save energy costs, but it will help with keeping your utility bills contstant; budget billing. It really helps when we have the extreme weather we’ve had recently (last summer too). My heat ran all night, but I know what my gas bill will be this month and won’t be sticker shocked with a massive bill. I also turn my heat way day when no one is home all day, no sense heating an empty house.


December 14th, 2010
7:34 am

There is an insulation film for windows that helps keep out drafts, etc. for those of us with older homes / windows, and it doesn’t cost that much. I have gotten it in the past at Home Depot. I’m not sure if they still have it because we had stocked up. If not, look around for it (Amazon has it, I’m sure). It isn’t as effective as triple-pane windows, but then again, it’s not $14,000 either :-)


December 14th, 2010
7:37 am

@Who – 70 degrees is practically tropical in the winter. If your house is freezing at that temperature, you really need to weatherstrip, etc. Check for drafts and plug them up! What you spend on the material, you will save on your heating bill.


December 14th, 2010
7:48 am

YES…we drip water. If you have ever lived in a house where the pipes froze up, you would do it too.

As a girl, we had frozen pipes in the ceiling and when they burst…they leaked everywhere and the ceilings were ruined too. If it gets below 20, I drip water. Call me crazy but I do not want to repeat that episode. Lucky for us, it does not get that cold here too often.

We purchased 5 contained electric space heaters over 5 years ago when the gas prices shot up. We had one high bill and that was it. Some friends had $400 gas bills…in Atlanta? No, they are not fashionable but they save us $100- $200 per month in the winter. For us, the electric is cheaper than the gas. We bought them on sale and they cost about $40 each. We have saved over $2000 using them.

We also have equal payment plan on our utilities. My husband tells me that turning the thermostat way down for a few hours is not efficient as it takes so much to reheat our house. We have cathedral ceilings in several rooms. I don’t know.


December 14th, 2010
8:01 am

Most energy star rated waters heaters don’t need blankets. Older modles do and you can get the cheap at the Habitat Re-Store on Memorial Dr.

Road Scholar

December 14th, 2010
8:12 am

We replaced our windows 2 years ago with Sunshine windows, a double paned, double hung vinyl window. The house always seemed cold in winter before, esp the sunroom, but now it is toasty during the winter and cooler in the summer. The second benefit is we can actually open our windows when the outside temp is high enough. The third is that they are easier to clean. We also do the average billing, but I keep an eye on the monthly usage. It seems our furnace/AC doesn’t run as long/often.

I need to refresh some insulation in the attic and work on the doors now, but we feel we did the right thing.


December 14th, 2010
8:12 am

FYI…to me, Atlantans are being absolute babies about this cold weather.

Yes, we live in the south but it will be 50 again in a few days. At least we do not have it all winter AND two feet of snow!

BUT many of the other folks ( up north) would whine if they had to put up with summer temps. we do.

Moms…think of your kid’s teachers who are in schools that do not send the kids outside if it is below 40 degrees…they need help getting through this frenzied week with the kids inside all day….glad it is not me :).


December 14th, 2010
8:52 am

It’s just me and the animals most of the time, and they have fur coats, so they are warm. However, they all have blankets, and the Lab has a nice bed she sleeps in.

I turn my heat OFF at night. I have three warm bodies in the bed with me, and the puppy crawls under the covers with me. I can’t stand for it to be running while I’m sleeping. One of the animals usually wakes me up around 5, so I turn the heat on then, and crawl back into bed for an hour. I turn the heat off again, when I leave for work. I open the curtains and blinds to let the sun shine in and heat the house while I’m at work. When I get home, I will turn the heat on to 68, then once it reaches that temp, I turn it down to 63. I have a space heater in the living room, and plenty of blankets. When I settle in to watch tv, it’s nice and toasty.

Now that my daughter is home for a month, the heat is staying at 68. We supplement with the space heater, and we love to snuggle up in blankets.

My power bill is rarely over $125. I have a two story house with cathedral ceilings.


December 14th, 2010
9:10 am

@MJG -I agree about the hype and hysteria. I’m a lifelong native, and I don’t get what all the hoopla is about! It’s been this cold here -MANY times. People freak out over nothing and let the media snowball their craziness. It’s actually been colder than this before, folks! You would think we normally had 80 degree averages year round and this was some freak anomaly. You want cold? Go to St. Paul or Montana right now and stay for the rest of the winter -THAT is cold!


December 14th, 2010
9:17 am

We’ve used space heaters too–there’s one at Costco that is shaped like a large round dish (I can’t remember how much we paid for it) but it’s very very effective at warming a room. We use it in the bedroom at night and turn the thermometer very low–the room stays toasty. I haven’t figured our cost savings yet but I’m sure they are in line with what MJG reports above.


December 14th, 2010
9:17 am

I found a lesser expensive solution (especially when I was not working). I bought a roll of plastic sheeting at the local hardware warehouse (not sure if we can name names on this blog) for about $9.00 per roll. I cut the plastic and put it on the windows. I used regular shipping tape and secured it to the frames of the windows on the inside. I put it up in the bedrooms and the downstairs windows. It really kept the draft out and with the curtains, you could not really see it. I didn’t cover the living room windows because I wanted to be able to see outside. I didn’t realize how much air I had coming in until I put up the plastic.

When you remove it, the shipping tape doesn’t take up the paint on your sills. I also scraped and recaulked the windows once I took the plastic down so we would be prepared for the next winter. I can’t afford to replace all of the windows so I am continuing to try to weatherproof the house. Also, if you sign up for 3M updates, they will send you coupons quarterly for their filters. I replace mine every three months and with the coupons, I can buy one of the better filters.


December 14th, 2010
9:22 am

My sister and brother-in-law had an energy consultant come out to their home yesterday evening. They were given the following tips: (1) Hot water tank should be at 130 degrees; (2) Fridge should be between 38 & 40 degrees Fahrenheit; and (3) Freezer should be at 5 degrees Fahrenheit


December 14th, 2010
9:25 am

I really think windows make the biggest difference. We bought a 4400 sf house 2 years ago and our electric bill is consistently less than our combined gas/electric of the old house that is 1800 sf which has the old double-hung single pane windows. I do miss the gas heat – it just felt warmer to me (my husband says it’s in my head) but I’ll take the lower bills. We keep our thermostat on 66-68 for the most part.

I have a space heater since I’m the only one home during the day and don’t want to turn the heat up in the whole house just for me. I usually wear extra clothes, sweatshirts, slippers, etc. so I don’t need it warmer. Coffee helps too! We have electric blankets that we just turn on for 15-20 mins to warm up the bed at night and then turn off once we get in and have down comforters to keep the warmth in.

We’ve made the switch to CFLs except in key places (like my vanity light) so that’s likely helping as well.

The investment in LED Christmas lights doesn’t seem economical to me. Maybe if they actually last several years but it seems like I have to replace several strands of the regular lights every year. Not a big deal at $3 a strand but at $15-20, I’d be pretty pissed if I had to replace them as often. Anyone had those long enough to know if they really do last longer than regular lights? I’m still not sure I really like the look of the LED Christmas lights though… Some of our neighbors put them up and I’m just not digging them.


December 14th, 2010
9:28 am

JATL…I just talked to someone in Montana yesterday, who might like to invite me in June…awesome!

I was in Minnesota 2 years ago when the temperature NOT WIND CHILL was 27 BELOW zero. Now THAT was cold….you betcha!

The thing is…we WILL get back up to 50 in a few days…deal with it people! It is December!

I guess, if you have lived in metro Atlanta most of your life, you do not realize that many other Americans actually have cold weather in the winter. Kind of like those in the midwest not thinking much about when hurricane season starts and stops.

My Dad retired to Florida over 20 years ago. He complains about the heat every summer. I remind him that it was his choice to move there and no one is making him stay there either.


December 14th, 2010
9:55 am

Been having this argument with my wife recently, does any body know for certain if turning down heat at night / when no one is at home and then re heating the house is more economical than leaving the thermometer set at a certain temp??? I think it is cheaper to do it that way but my wife disagrees?? I would love to see a sudy cost analysis of it. has anybody seen one? Thanks for the help.

Come on Son

December 14th, 2010
10:10 am

I try to keep it at 70 but I could survive in the mid-60’s, but it is challenging when you have cold natured folks in the house.

By the way, I was noticing in the car pool line today (middle school) that there were kids still coming to school in shorts this morning, but I will say the majority were wrapped up or at least had coats on.
Did not see any flip-flops, but I am sure it is a pair walking around in the building, lol.


December 14th, 2010
10:15 am

I got one of those programmable thermostats for my gas furnace and I really like it. I have old windows and storm windows but they are not tight and I put plastic over them (looks like h3ll) but they still are far from ideal. Put lots of insulation in the attic a few years ago. I have to have the water heater turned up pretty high because the well water it mixes with is SO COLD. I get the 3 month filters but change them every month. When it gets super cold I use a couple of those oil heaters (that run on electricity) to supplement in the 2 rooms I am usually in. My electric bills run about $125 in the winter, but of course I use a good bit of gas–right now about $200 for this last month! It has been unusually cold here in the mountains.


December 14th, 2010
10:33 am

I had a new boiler put in a couple years ago and the company that put it in suggested not turning down the thermostat to far at night or away. I do 68 when we’re home, 64 when we’re not. I’ve got one of those thermostats that you program that when you want 68 at 7:00 a.m., it turns on the system to have 68 by 7. Pretty neat, and I have noticed between the new boiler (my old one was about 40 years old) and the new t-stat, I’m using less oil.

This is a good thing.


December 14th, 2010
10:34 am

@ the thermostat up and down and if it helps? I found this on Yahoo:

we did a 2 yr study, [at work] and turning the temp down at night
[ programmable Verses manual controls] cost us $200 a month more with programmable ,
because it takes more to Reheat the whole thing than to just maintain it,
saved $200 a month by using a manual control and leaving the temp alone
when you turn the temp down EVERY thing cools off floors, walls, furniture,
then when you turn it back up it has to reheat all of that.
building maint man


December 14th, 2010
10:35 am

Fred, my understanding is that moderate adjustments are best. Turning the temp way down or keeping the house ideally heated when empty are both inefficent. Bump it down just a few degrees so the heat doesn’t run all day, but will kick on before the house is freezing so it won’t have to work so hard later to get things back to a comfortable temp.


December 14th, 2010
10:38 am

@ Wayne…LOVE the word boiler…LOL. We do not hear it much in the south…sort of goes with Dominick the Donkey ( which I now learned and have enjoyed singing). Hugs to you and I’ll bet you can really tell us what a cold day feels like.

Fellow Georgians, I remember the radiator heaters that we would put our wet mittens on when we came in from recess, during elementary school in Chicago.
Why were our mittens WET, you ask? Because we played outside IN THE SNOW on a school day!
Oh, I guess it had to be below 40 degrees to have snow that could be made into snowmen and snow balls…LOL.


December 14th, 2010
10:42 am

Come on Son- yep, saw flip flops at middle school. Can’t wait til my daughter gets to her HS, flip flops are against dress code. :o)

My husband keeps the house like a meat locker, so it is lots of blankets and warm pj’s. We use a mattress pad heater to warm the bed up shortly before bedtime. The boys have blankets in their crates and they just “pug pile” during the day to keep warm. Of course, they pug pile in the summer too, lazy mutts. :o)

Having grown up in the Midwest and North East- these winters are pretty easy down here, but understand Southerners are not used to extended periods of cold. I actually wore a sweater today, but no coat. Hands were a little chilly, but tolerable. I would certainly hate to be out working in this cold all day long though!

Come on Son

December 14th, 2010
10:57 am


It is funny flips flops are against the dress code at my kids middle school but it is never enforced, I guess you choose your battles. It is really a safety issue but as long as no one steps on the back of a flip flop and causes a major injury, all is well. (That is what the airport thought until that kid broke his toes on the escalator wearing Crocs and had to pay a heavy $ettlement).


December 14th, 2010
11:05 am

I was picked up in the airport shuttle, at the Grand Forks, ND airport a few years ago January by a college student wearing a skirt and sweater: NO SOCKS OR HOSE…just shoes. It was 12 degrees…
My son wears flip flops all the time, except to work or dress functions. Not something I will ever understand. Neither wore them in middle or high school but it seems lots of college kids do. My daughter, not so much.


December 14th, 2010
11:17 am

I was wearing flip flops all weekend….I do the “japanese” thing, and put on socks with them when I have to go outside with the dogs, or going over to the neighbors….but I live in flip flops……..LOL….


December 14th, 2010
11:44 am

You only lose about 10% of your heat through the windows. It all goes through your roof. Check to make sure your attic and crawlspaces are insulated and don’t worry about your windows.

I have 42 windows in my 85-year-old 2200 sqft house with it’s old wood weight and pulley double hung windows. It would take me 223 years to pay off new windows in energy savings

So, insulate attic and crawlspace. Use that 3M film on drafty windows + hang layered drapes.


December 14th, 2010
12:19 pm

I used that plastic on my windows in my last house, and it definately made a difference in my heating. I use it in the house we are in now, for the basement windows. My daughter moved her bedroom down there, and it’s a little drafty……


December 14th, 2010
1:06 pm

I grew up in NYC in the 70s and 80s and our winters were long, COLD and snowy. All of these tips remind me of how energy efficient we were back then. We weren’t really trying to be all that efficient, we were just broke and did not want to spend more than we had. The plastic on the windows, heavy drapes, walking around the house in sweats, socks, slippers, sleeping with your head covered. Maybe if we had kept up some of that stuff we would not have such an energy crisis now.

Warrior Woman

December 14th, 2010
2:34 pm

@Techmom – My experience with a larger, but more energy efficient, home was similar to yours, although we still have gas heat.

We keep the winter thermostat set at 65 degrees in the evenings when we’re at home, and let the temperature drop to 60 when we’re at work/school. We’ve added more attic insulation; wrapped the hot water heater and pipe; and moved to energy-efficient appliances, but I will not change to CFL lights because of the dangerously high mercury levels if they are broken.


December 14th, 2010
7:19 pm

well it was – something at my house this morning….im at a friends house so i can get to work..she is about 2000ft lower than my house is and it was 1 here this morning. bitterly cold. i know its not -27 or something..but 1 with huge wind is COLD! there is a pack of plastic you can buy cheaply and use y our blow drier to seal your windows…im getting some of that to put on the windows…plus..when one of the kids isnt home their room stays closed and cold..they have space heaters for when they are home. i keep my gas log thermostat at 60 when imnot home…higher when im home..but just to warm it up. space heaters seem to be a lot cheaper than the gas logs i have. i hate winter and cant wait for spring. bla…i spend more time at my friends house in the winter so i can safely get to work..and i am a major homebody….wrecks my nerves to be away so long..ive been here since friday…will try to make it home in the sleet thats on the way tomorrow so i an have my 2 days off at home…hopefully the power wont go off with the sleet we are gonna get..on top of the 8 inches of snow already there….


December 14th, 2010
7:30 pm

waaaa….anybody got some cheese for my whine? lol

Mark D. Tyrol, P.E.

December 14th, 2010
9:40 pm

How To Reduce Your Energy Bills / Energy Conservation Begins at Home

Imagine leaving a window open all winter long — the heat loss, cold drafts and wasted energy! If your home has a folding attic stair, a whole house fan or AC Return, a fireplace or a clothes dryer, that may be just what is occurring in your home every day.

These often overlooked sources of energy loss and air leakage can cause heat and AC to pour out and the outside air to rush in — costing you higher energy bills.

But what can you do about the four largest “holes” in your home — the folding attic stair, the whole house fan or AC return, the fireplace, and the clothes dryer?

To learn more visit

Mark D. Tyrol is a Professional Engineer specializing in cause and origin of construction defects. He developed several residential energy conservation products including an attic stair cover and an attic access door. Battic Door is the US distributor of the fireplace plug.


December 15th, 2010
9:29 am

FYI – It’s NOT a Hot water heater, it’s a water heater. You don’t have to heat hot water.,….


December 15th, 2010
10:51 am

We have the programmable thermostats for both our our heating/air units and we try to keep the temp at a constant. We also use space heaters and my hubby just put up the plastic window insulation yesterday. You can usually find the kits at your local ACE Hardware store. The windows in our house are the main problem. They are poor quality, but with only one income, we can’t afford to replace them right now. I signed us up for the budget billing (or flat bill) about two years ago. After our first winter in our house, the electric bill jumped from about $60 in summer/fall to over $200 in December-February.