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How Much Your Electricity Bill Will Be Impacted by Cold Weather

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I live in Texas and the moment I start to feel cool air blow, one thing comes to mind "Hello, lower electricity bills!" But that's not the case for everyone. Just like the hot summer months cause higher energy bills for Texas and other southern states, the winter months cause a rise in the natural gas bills for the northern states.

The good news is there are some tips to keep heating costs down! But before I get into that, it's helpful to understand the background on why the winter months affect energy bills differently for different parts of the country.

Electricity vs. Gas

To begin, the primary method of heating houses in the north is by using natural gas, while most Texans use electricity for heating and cooling. this means those home experience an increase in their gas bill, but not necessarily their electricity bills.

In addition, heating a home in a northern winter requires as much natural gas as we use for cooling our homes in a Texas summer. For example, if the weather in the north hovers around 15 to 20 degrees (on a warm day) think about how much gas is necessary to raise and keep home temperatures at a bearable 70 degrees. Therefore, the more natural gas being used, costs rise because of the increase in demand, which of course results in higher utility bills.

So, how can you keep your energy costs down while still keeping your home warm in winter? Try these tips!

Take advantage of heat from other sources. Studies show that for every degree above 70 your heating cost will increase up to four percent. So try to take advantage of the heat generated from other activities done around the house. For example, taking a shower generates heat. So during your next shower, open the bathroom door to let steam spread to other rooms. Just be sure not to turn on the fan, which will quickly remove the warm air.

Don't let heat escape unnecessarily

It will take some investigative work on your end to locate any gaps or leaks where warm air can escape. Feel around windows and door frames to see if there is any cold air leaking through. If you feel cold air it means you have found an air leak. A relatively easy fix is to use caulking or weather-stripping to fill in the leaks.

Drafts can also come in through the base of doors. An easy fix is to roll up a towel like a snake and place it at the base of the door. For something more appealing, there are draft-stoppers that can be purchased in colorful designs.

Cover Your Windows

If you have window coverings on any of your windows, close them at night. This will help reduce heat loss and prevent cold air from coming in. On the flip side, keep them open during the day to let the warm sunlight in. For homes with older windows, in addition to window coverings, you can apply plastic sheeting over the whole window. It may not have the best curb appeal, but it will add a layer of insulation without blocking the light.Put on Socks

This is an easy trick to warm your body. As much as 30% of your body heat can escape through your feet and hands, so it is helpful to put on a pair of socks. If you are still cold, try putting on a throw blanket to cover your feet and shoulders instead of turning up the heater.

Schedule Professional Maintenance

We recommend that your entire HVAC system undergo maintenance two times a year - once in the spring before summer arrives and then in the fall before winter gets here. If a heater is maintained properly it will run more efficiently. Another thing to remember is to check the filters in your heating system. They can get dirty and clogged and cause your unit to work harder to push warm air out thus increasing heating costs.

Take Care of Your fireplace

Using the fireplace can be cozy at the time, but it also can waste gas as it allows warm air to get out through the chimney. So, when the fireplace is not in use (especially after the fire dies out and the gas is turned off), close the damper to prevent warm air from escaping.

Use Ceiling Fans

Just like in the warm months, fans can help in the cooler months as well, if there is a reverse switch. When the direction of a ceiling fan is reversed, it will actually pull the cool air up to mix with the warm air; which is especially helpful in rooms with high ceilings. If you are confused about which way the fan should revolve, then stand directly under it - if you feel a breeze, the fan is on summer mode and needs to be switched.

Protect Electrical Outlets and Switches

Outdoor electrical outlets and switches can actually be a source of air leaks too. To keep the air in, you can purchase and install foam insulation pads, which are easy to install and found at most hardware stores.

Dress for the Occasion

So it turns out that your body is one of the best heat sources you have. Before you reach over to crank up your thermostat to 80 degrees, try putting on some warm clothes. Dress appropriately by wearing layers, which traps your body heat in air pockets between the layers to keep you warm. Also, sweaters and sweatpants are helpful, and while they may not look the most fashionable, you'll at least be warm.

Remember the Water Heater

If your water heater is older than five years or has an R-value less than R-24, then try applying insulation. This can reduce heat loss by 25-45%. This can result in savings of 4-9% in water heating costs. An easy way to add insulation is to use a water heater blanket/jacket (be sure it has a value of at least R-8).

Insulate the pipes around your water heater. This is especially helpful if the water heater is located in an unheated space. It will reduce heat loss, and you won't have to wait as long for hot water, which can also conserve water too. To insulate pipes, you can use good quality pipe insulation, strips of fiberglass insulation or for an easier fix, pipe sleeves (most commonly used).

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