Ways to Save

How Extreme Temperatures Impact Energy Bills Video

Wondering why your energy bill may go up when the temperature drops? Sustained cold temperatures mean heating systems run more often and longer. Here are three easy ways to save during the winter:

Seasonal Tips

Reducing Energy Costs in Cold Weather

Cold weather directly translates into higher energy usage, which results in higher energy bills. For customer-members who want to save money, the following information will help reduce energy use when the weather is cold.

  • Heating systems account for a significant portion of a residential customer’s energy use, so wear warm clothes inside and turn down the thermostat, which SMECO recommends setting at 68 degrees
  • Make sure to clean or replace the filters on your heating system monthly
  • Do not set your heat pump to run in emergency heat mode or auxiliary heat mode, because the resistance heat elements cost more to operate
  • Do not change your heat pump thermostat manually more than two degrees at a time. Find the coolest comfortable setting and leave it there. Moving the thermostat setting up by more than two degrees manually may cause your auxiliary heat to come on, which costs more to run
  • Keep exterior doors and windows closed
  • Keep window blinds and curtains open during the day to let in sunlight, but close them at night to keep cold air out
  • Use bathroom exhaust fans only when needed. They pull warm air and humidity out of the house
  • Keep snow and leaves away from the outdoor unit of your heat pump
  • Have your heating system professionally serviced on a regular basis to keep it operating at its peak efficiency

No-Cost Actions

Items That Cost Nothing to Do

  • Do you have an extra refrigerator or freezer that is really not needed?>
    • Unplug it
    • Older models can cost between $10 and $20 per month to operate
    • The cost is significantly higher if the refrigerator or freezer is in a garage or shed
    • Consider recycling that extra fridge or freezer
  • Are there a lot of lights left on when not needed?
    • Turn them off
    • A single 100-watt incandescent bulb left on for 4 hours a day uses $1.65 worth of electricity each month
    • If you leave many lights on for long periods of time, the cost adds up quickly
  • Are you running your furnace fan continuously?
    • The fan in a large oil furnace can easily consume $50 of electricity in a month if running 24/7
    • Switch the fan to the “Auto” setting and significantly reduce this amount
  • If you have a waterbed, do you make the bed after you wake up?
    • Placing a comforter on a waterbed can save about $3.65 each month
  • Do you leave your computer on continuously?
    • Computers use relatively little power, but most people can save several dollars a month by turning off their computers and related equipment when not in use
  • Do you take really long showers?
    • Most people don’t realize that the cost of hot water is about 25% of their energy bill
    • Shortening showers from 10 minutes to 5 minutes can save about $5 per month
  • Do you wash clothes in hot water?
    • If you can switch to cold water and wash one load a day, you could save about $16 each month
  • Adjusting your thermostat can bring substantial savings.
    • During the winter, keeping your thermostat set at 68º F (instead of 72º F) can decrease your heating costs by about 21%
    • During the summer, keeping your thermostat set at 78º F (instead of 72º F) can decrease cooling costs by about 40%
    • For an average 4-ton heat pump or air conditioner, these strategies can save about $170 during the winter and $130 during the summer
  • A small space heater left on the high setting can consume about $100 in a month if left on continuously, so use it only when needed.
    • Space heaters are effective at providing some heat in an area, but if left on for long periods of time, they can really gobble up electricity!
  • If you have electric baseboard heaters the bad news is that they are about the most expensive form of heat.
    • The good news is that they can be easily turned off or turned down in rooms where heat is not needed
  • The sun’s energy is free!
    • In the winter, take advantage of this free energy by opening shades and blinds on south facing windows on sunny days
    • In the summer do the opposite: close shades and blinds to keep out the sun’s energy
  • When drying clothes, use your dryer’s automatic drying feature (if there is one) instead of time drying.
    • Be sure that you dryer vent is not clogged and remember that the sun will dry your clothes for free!

Easy to Do

Items That Cost a Little & Are Easy to Do

      • Make sure your heating system operates efficiently.
        • The most important things you can do as a homeowner are changing your filters and making sure your outdoor unit is not blocked by leaves, debris and snow
        • A dirty filter on a heat pump can use excess auxiliary heat and drive up your electric bill
        • If you suspect that your system is not working properly, have it checked by a professional!
        • Sign up for the Co-op’s Home Energy Improvement Program
        • SMECO also offers tips for troubleshooting your heat pump
      • Is your thermostat saving you money?
        • SMECO strongly recommends a programmable thermostat for homeowners who have oil, gas, and electric furnaces and who are away during the day
        • Savings can range from 10 to 30 percent depending on the settings
        • For homeowners with heat pumps, programmable thermostats are a good idea but savings are much more modest
        • Programmable thermostats are also a good idea for people who leave the house during the day during the summer and can tolerate a higher thermostat setting for their heat pump or air conditioner while they are away
        • Sign up for SMECO CoolSentry and receive a free programmable thermostat and up to $75 in credits on your electric bill
      • Water heating is usually the second largest energy consumer in the home.
        • Inexpensive ways to reduce hot water consumption include:
          • Installing low flow shower heads
          • Turning down the temperature on the water heater to 120º F
          • Insulating the hot water tank
        • The cost savings will vary but could easily add up to $16 per month for a family of 4
      • Do you use timers for appliances such as pool pumps, lights, and block heaters?
        • A timer simply turns an appliance on and off and saves money by reducing its run time
        • There are many applications for timers
        • A timer for your bathroom fan can prevent the fan from running all day and sucking all the conditioned air out of your house

Other Ways to Use Appliance Timers

Device Daily Run Time Savings per Month
Pool pump, 1 hp 12 hours instead of 24 hours $35
Block heater, 1,500 watts 2 hours instead of 12 hours $40
Quartz floodlight, 500 watts 4 hours instead of 12 hours $11

Do you use LED bulbs?

      • LEDs last up to 25 times longer than incandescent bulbs and use 75% less energy
      • With LEDs, you can save through lower energy costs and less frequent bulb replacements
      • SMECO offers discounts on LEDs through participating retailers
      • Find out more on our Lighting page

Items That Require Investment & Planning

      • When you shop for a new appliance do you look for ENERGY STAR appliances?
        • The ENERGY STAR label makes it easy to determine if an appliance is energy efficient
        • You can even build a new ENERGY STAR home that will save you about 30% on your utility costs
      • Replacement windows are high on the list of many owners of older homes.
        • Although replacing windows is usually very expensive and takes a long time to pay back in energy costs, many people make window replacement a high priority
        • Be sure to make a wise energy choice with windows by understanding key items such as Low-E glass, U-value, shading coefficient, and the NFRC label
      • When buying new heating and air conditioning equipment, higher efficiency numbers mean lower operating costs.
        • For heat pumps be sure to look at both the Seasonal Energy Efficiency Rating (SEER) and the Heating Season Performance Factor (HSPF)
        • For fossil fuel appliances be sure to compare the Annual Fuel Utilization Index (AFUE)
        • The equipment is usually only half the story; most heating and cooling systems rely on ducts to carry the warm or cool air to each room
        • Keeping your ducts insulated and free of leaks will save you money
        • SMECO offers rebates on air conditioners and heat pumps through participating contractors
      • The greatest loss of heat in many homes is through excessive leakiness and draftiness, and usually older homes are the most leaky.
        • The most effective way to identify leaks is through a blower door test of your home
        • SMECO provides blower door testing through our ENERGY STAR® program
        • Keep in mind that it is much easier and more effective to seal a home tight while a home is being built
        • There are many resources available to help guide you in effectively sealing and tightening a home if you wish to do it yourself
      • Do you have adequate insulation levels in your home?
        • The Department of Energy has specific recommendations for insulation
        • It’s relatively easy to insulate an attic or basement, a little more difficult to insulate a crawlspace, and much more difficult to insulate existing walls

Good Websites for More Information

U.S. Department of Energy Energy Saver Guide


Energy & Environmental Building Association Building Technology