Winter is a difficult time to stick to a budget because extreme temperatures can mean higher costs to keep warm. Fortunately, there are many ways to lower expenses while staying toasty and healthy this winter. Money Tracker shares five budget-savvy home hacks on how to get started.
Opt for firewood instead of HVAC
Energy bills can skyrocket in winter, so avoiding HVAC usage can help keep your household under budget. If you have a fireplace or wood-burning stove, now is the time to consider switching to wood-only heat.
If you don’t have trees available for firewood, it’s possible to purchase cords of wood per season. Wood delivery varies widely based on location, wood type, and how it’s cut. For long-lasting heat without the mess of sap, hardwoods are preferable; scope out beech, birch, elm, and maple if possible.
Firewood is often cheaper outside of winter, too; look for local firewood sales ahead of the cold season when possible. In some areas, local programs help subsidize firewood; search your location to see what help might be available.
Stop drafts and heat seepage
No matter how you heat your home, energy loss can occur through window and door gaps and other drafty spots. Blocking drafts helps seal warmth in and can save you money; a well-insulated home could save 15 percent on energy costs, according to Energy Star.
Sealing cracks and gaps with caulking and weatherstripping windows and doors is a great start. Window coverings are also a simple way to retain heat and reduce energy usage, and they can add ambiance to your home, too.
Swap out light bulbs
Because it gets dark earlier in winter in most parts of the world, energy use per lightbulb can add up. Swapping out your bulbs could help keep the electricity bill under control. Compare lightbulb types to determine what’s best for your budget and home lighting needs.
For example, LEDs are the most efficient light available today, but they do cost more up-front. However, other lower-cost options offer enough energy savings to be worth the investment.
Swapping out traditional incandescent bulbs for more efficient bulbs (as they burn out) is a great first step toward cutting lighting expenses for seasonal savings.
Use power outside of peak times
Though energy usage patterns vary by season, many utility companies establish peak times during the day or week. By using power outside of those peak times, you pay a lower amount per kilowatt hour. You also reduce the stress on your local energy grid — meaning there’s a lower chance of outages!
Another budget-saving tip for reducing energy use is to unplug appliances you’re not using. Studies suggest that “vampire energy loads” — plugged-in items that quietly slurp energy — are a drain on the power grid.
In fact, Harvard University states that vampire energy drainers make up at least five percent of home electricity use. Unplugging those devices or switching off power strips can amount to decent energy savings in any season.
Keep comfortable indoors
Though heat provides comfort in winter, too much of it can create an uncomfortable indoor environment. Namely, heat dries out the air; you might notice dry skin or chapped lips. Too-dry air can also cause health issues, notes Cleveland Clinic, ranging from worsening allergies to nosebleeds to bronchitis.
To maintain adequate humidity while heating your home in winter, you’ll need to reintroduce moisture into the air. Fortunately, this can be done cheaply by adding a pot of water atop your fireplace, keeping well-watered houseplants, and even hanging your laundry to dry indoors.
Sticking to a budget can become difficult when it’s cold outside and staying home is a must. But with these smart and energy-saving strategies, you can cut down your energy bill without sacrificing comfort.
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AUTHOR BIO: LANCE CODY-VALDEZ
A few years ago, burned out and miserable from his job in corporate marketing, Lance Cody-Valdez decided it was time to invest in himself. He quit his job the following day and used his meager savings to stay afloat as he built a career as a freelance writer and content marketer. He created free-lance-now.com to help others use freelancing to escape the 9 to 5 daily grind.