Winter time is here, and even though we would like to cozy up inside and hibernate in a warm cocoon, heating our homes is becoming more expensive than ever. The U.S. Energy Information Administration expects a surge in home heating costs for 2022-23 in the Northeast region: an increase of 17% for natural gas and 11% for electricity compared to last winter. Rising energy costs are linked to higher fuel prices (resulting from the Russian invasion of Ukraine), a colder winter than last year and increased energy consumption.

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When the weather outside is frightful, cozy up with your favorite hot drink in hand.
Photo credit: Juliette Fradin Photography

Although the shorter days and longer nights of winter pull us indoors more, we can still be mindful of our energy use and try to rein in our carbon footprint. Consider these practical ways to reduce your greenhouse gas emissions this winter:

Adjust your thermostat. According to the Department of Energy, the ideal temperature for your home in winter is 68 F for comfort and to save energy. Lower it at night between 60 to 67 F and when nobody’s home. The World Health Organization recommends 64.4 F for most healthy adults. Use programmable and smart thermostats to automate these changes. 

Adjust your water heater’s temperature. Keep the temperature set at 120 F, and consider adding an insulated blanket that wraps around the tank to prevent heat loss. Or install a water heater timer and set it to run just when you need it. Also, the next time you need to replace your hot water heater, consider going tankless to drastically cut your energy bill costs. 

Close doors and vents in unused rooms. If you have a guest or storage room you rarely use, close off all vents in the room and shut all doors so you don’t heat uninhabited space.

Change your furnace filters. Keep your HVAC system running at peak efficiency by changing the filter at least every 90 days. 

Clean your refrigerator coils. Your fridge has to work extra hard when its condenser coils are dirty, so try to clean them thoroughly once a year.   

Unplug unused electronics to avoid “phantom load” (or “vampire energy”), the electricity a plugged device uses even when it’s turned off. Think of chargers, computers, printers, coffeemakers, microwave ovens and so on. Or use a smart strip surge protector that you can turn off. 

Air dry dishes in the dishwasher. Choose an express or delicate wash cycle that doesn’t include a full drying session. Once the dishwasher is done, simply crack the door open a few inches and let the dishes finish air-drying. Check if your appliance has an automatic air-dry setting. And remember to always fully load the dishwasher before washing.

Turn off your oven early and preheat only if you must. Turn the oven or stove off a few minutes before your meal is ready and let the heat finish the job for you. For foods that require long cooking times, preheating the oven is often unnecessary. 

Close the curtains at night. Windows cause heat loss as they are not as insulated as walls. Cover them up with insulated thermal curtains during the night to reduce heat loss.

Use cellular (or honeycomb) shades. The cell pockets trap air around the windows and drastically prevent heat from escaping your home in winter and entering in summer. They keep the room warm in the winter and cool in the summer. Look for ones made from recycled materials.
Stay warm with clothes, blankets and socks. It’s much more cost-effective to warm your body than your house.

Close the damper when not using the fireplace.

Place rugs on hard floors. And even on your walls! Rugs can work as wall hangings to add more insulation to a room.

With the onset of 2023, the Inflation Reduction Act of 2022 helps consumers to switch from fossil fuels to electricity, thanks to rebates and tax credits through 2032. Next time you need to make some home improvements, you can claim up to 30% of the cost of new qualifying windows, solar panels, heat pumps, electric stoves and more. 

Most of these tips can save you money all year long. The goal is not to be perfect all the time but to do what is right for the earth … and your wallet!  

Juliette Fradin writes about eco-friendly living for the Hyattsville Life & Times.