Winter is here, and with the colder temperatures come higher utility bills. According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, space heating makes up 54% of all energy expenses for the average Colorado home, while 19% go towards water heating.
Regardless of the season, there are lots of ways, big and small, to make your home more energy efficient so you can save money and keep your retirement income where it belongs—in your pocket.
Why Make Your Home More Energy Efficient?
Colorado homes can face a variety of weather and temperature extremes throughout the year that can drive up energy costs. If you’ve started working remotely during the pandemic, you might be using more resources throughout the day. The same goes for if you’ve recently retired and are spending more time at home. Whatever your situation, a few changes can make a big difference in your energy bills, and in the comfort of your home.
And let’s not forget Mother Earth—as erratic weather events of the past few years have shown, climate change is real and urgent. It’s up to us to make changes that will benefit ourselves, our planet, and future generations. In short, improving your home’s energy efficiency can help you:
- Save money
- Lower your carbon footprint
- Keep your home comfortable all year long
- Enjoy the added convenience of new technologies
Top Ways to Make Your Home More Energy Efficient This Winter (And for Years to Come)
Make Sure Your Home Is Properly Sealed
A tightly sealed, well-insulated home will be much less expensive to heat—and more comfortable—than a leaky or drafty one.
- Check the seals around all door and window frames, and seal any cracks and openings with caulk or weather stripping
- Seek out and fix heat leaks that may let cold air in, such as loose electrical outlets, light fixtures, HVAC units, or gaps in your insulation
- Improving or increasing insulation in your walls, ceiling, and attic has the potential to shave 10% off your annual energy bills, estimates the EPA
Upgrade Your Windows
Energy-efficient windows are designed to trap cool air in the summer and hot air in the winter. New windows are not cheap, but the energy savings will pay back over the long-term. Look for low-conductive, double-paned windows (higher-end options include argon gas insulation between the panes). For a cheaper option, you can insulate your windows using window film to seal the frame.
Leverage Natural Light
One great thing about Colorado is the sunshine. With 300 days of sunshine annually, you can use natural light to your advantage, even in winter. Open curtains and blinds to let sun in during the day, warming your house naturally. Then close them at night to avoid heat loss. This is one energy-saving tip that won’t cost you a dime.
Use Energy Efficient Light Bulbs
Replace your regular light bulbs with more energy-efficient options like an LED or compact fluorescent lightbulb (CFL). CFLs, for example, last 10 times longer than traditional incandescent bulbs and use only two thirds the energy. At $3 - $5 a bulb, this is one of the easiest moves you can make towards a more energy efficient home.
Unplug Appliances & Electronics When Not in Use
Did you know that electronics can draw energy even when not in use? For this reason, Energy Outreach Colorado recommends unplugging all appliances when you’re not using them. To save energy and money, be sure to unplug items like toasters, blenders, electric can openers, and laptops when not in use. You might even consider unplugging your TV and wireless internet router overnight.
Close Vents in Rarely Used Rooms
Have a guest room, storage room, or kids’ old rooms that they’re not using anymore? All of these are sucking up valuable energy that would be better redirected elsewhere. Close all vents, curtains and blinds, and shut the door to avoid wasting energy heating a rarely used space. The same goes for your fireplace - close the damper or flue when you’re not using it to keep cold air from coming in.
Be Smart with Your Thermostats
It can be tempting to simply crank the heat all winter, but being smart with your thermostats can save you big time.
- Consider lowering the temperature a few degrees at night (when you’re cozied up under thick blankets anyway)
- Check your refrigerator temp to see if you have it on too low; your food will be safe at around 36 to 40 degrees
- “Smart thermostats” are programmable to regulate the temperature when you’re not home, and they can even learn from your patterns to optimize for comfort and energy use
Replace or Upgrade Your Appliances
Major appliances like your HVAC system or water heater are huge consumers of energy in the home. When it’s time to replace your household appliances, look for those with a high Energy Star rating, and think about the design. For example, tankless water heaters are significantly efficient, and they tend to outlast conventional storage water heaters. Other options to consider are low-flow shower heads, toilets, and front-loading washing machines.
Look for Subsidies and Assistance Programs
If you’re serious about making your home more energy efficient this winter (and for seasons to come), the state of Colorado has resources to help. Colorado’s Affordable Residential Energy (CARE) Program provides free energy efficiency upgrades and services including energy audits, project and contractor management, insulation, air sealing, new low-flow fixtures, and more. There are income requirements, which someone on a fixed retirement income would likely meet (80% of median income for the area). For full program information and application, visit the Energy Outreach Colorado website.
Some of these changes may seem expensive upfront, but your budget will thank you in the long run. Your energy bills will go down, the upgrades could potentially increase the value of your home, and you’ll be making an environmental impact your grandchildren and their children can be proud of.
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