Staying warm and saving energy when winter winds blow

Staying warm and saving energy when winter winds blow
Now is a good time to prepare your home for the falling temperatures that are sure to come in Alabama. (Billy Brown / Alabama NewsCenter)

In Alabama, we tend to think of energy efficiency mostly in the summer, when temperatures are soaring and we’re trying to keep our cool. But don’t overlook the importance of practicing energy efficiency during the winter months, too.

Here are some simple steps to save on energy and still stay toasty when the weather turns chilly:

Take advantage of natural heat

Snow and cold weather, like this at Smith Lake, can cause energy use to rise but there are steps you can take. (Billy Brown / Alabama NewsCenter)

Even during the winter months, Alabama often has plenty of sunshine. That winter sun can be a source of warmth for your home. During the day, the U.S. Department of Energy recommends opening blinds and drapes, typically on the sunny, south side of your home, to let the sunlight and its warmth come through. Close the drapes at night to provide insulation when the sun goes down.

Lower the thermostat while you sleep

A tried-and-true practice to save energy during colder months is lowering your thermostat while you sleep. According to the Department of Energy, going easier on your heating system during the coldest part of the day can save about 10 percent on heating costs. Consider throwing an extra blanket on the bed, or investing in an electric blanket to keep you warm and comfortable while you sleep.

If you don’t use it, don’t heat it

If you have rooms in your home that you rarely use, such as a guest room, consider closing off the vents in that space to save on energy. According to U.S. News & World Report, by lowering the thermostat, but directing the flow of conditioned air to the spaces where you need it, you can reduce your energy bill.

Use your ceiling fan

Ceiling fans are typically associated with warmer months, but your ceiling fan can be a great source for controlling airflow during the winter. Make sure your ceiling fans are rotating clockwise in the winter. This will help circulate warmer air trapped near the ceiling back into the room.

Find and seal leaks

Ensure your home is as air-tight as possible by finding and sealing leaks around plumbing penetrations, chimneys and unfinished spaces behind kitchen cabinets and closets. The Department of Energy offers guidelines on detecting air leaks and selecting and applying the appropriate caulk and weatherstripping. Properly sealing your home will help ensure you are keeping the warm air in and cold air out.

Quick tips to save even more

  • Don’t allow your attached garage to be an energy drain. Leave the garage door down as much as possible because a warmer garage will save energy.
  • Ensure your vents are free from unintentional obstructions. Your heating system works harder if your vents and air registers are blocked by rugs, furniture or drapes. Keep them clear to allow air to flow freely.
  • Consider covering bare floors with an area rug for added insulation.
  • Don’t make your refrigerator work too hard. The coils should be cleaned every year.
  • Change your air filters monthly. Dirty filters cause poor air circulation and make your system work harder. Remember, you don’t pay for the energy you don’t use.
  • Turn down the temperature of your water heater to the warm setting (120 degrees). You will not only save energy but you might avoid scalding your hands. According to the Department of Energy, reducing the temperature from 140 degrees to 120 degrees can save the average home more than $400 a year.
  • Use light-emitting diode – or “LED” – holiday light strings to reduce the cost of decorating your home for the holidays.
  • If you have a fireplace, make sure to keep the damper closed unless a fire is burning. Keeping the damper open is like keeping a window open during the winter.

For more information about saving energy – winter, summer or any season, visit www.alabamapower.com, or call customer service, day or night, at 1-800-245-2244 for energy-saving tips.

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