Energy Bills

Lessons Learned from a Cold, Expensive Winter: How to Save on Your Energy Bills


Energy Bills

Keeping Warm Costs Money!

The best part about having a house is having a house. The worst part? Paying house-bills! As the weather outside drops, my energy bills get higher. I learned a hard lesson last year when we first bought the house because…I like to be warm (that’s honestly an understatement). My perfect scenario is: thermostat on 80 degrees, fuzzy socks on my feet, being wrapped in a blanket, and sipping tea. But it’s all fun and games until that bill comes in.

Confession: I spent about $700 every month on my energy bill last winter. Yes, $700! Not my proudest moments and definitely made things hard for me, but it was a learning lesson. Over the last year, I’ve had to change things around the house so that I can keep warm but also keep my spending low. Here are some of the things I’ve learned so far.

Energy-Saving DO’s

Layer-Up! Layering up seems obvious but it’s a really good way to save money on heat. I’m not going to freeze my family just to save money of course (even though I’m thinking about it), but I realized that we should dress for the weather even when we’re home. Sweaters, warm socks, and long pants all help us sleep better at night.

Blankets – Too bad for Fatima this isn’t really an option for her since she’s still a small baby. But for the rest of us, big cozy blankets are our new friends! I realized it’s better to spend a couple $100 one time on some nice blankets instead of $700 a month to run the heat lol. You can find these just about anywhere so I put one in every room and then one in the downstairs closet too.

Upgrade your lightbulbs – This isn’t necessarily a winter tip, but it’s a good thing to do to save money all around. A lot of us don’t know this, but you could save a few dollars on your electric bill just by switching to LED lightbulbs. And sometimes you can even get discounts or free LED lightbulbs from your electric company! (I’ll talk more about that below.)

Seal your windows and ducts to keep heat from getting out. That’s pretty self-explanatory. If you leave space for air to get out, it will get out. So it’s best to keep everything sealed to make sure you’re heat stays in your house. You’re paying for it!

Space Heaters are a really good way to keep warm during the winter without breaking the bank. There’s a few things to remember about them, though. One is that you should always turn your space heater off when it’s not in use. Keep it away from curtains and other cloth materials. Also don’t let your kids near it; I always make sure to remind Diari that it’s not a toy. And finally, you should shop around to find the safest and best options for your family. Here’s a really good article about how to shop for a safe space heater. And if you have a new baby like I do, you’re probably worried about putting a space heater in the nursery. But this article lays out some of the safest space heaters on the market that are best for a nursery.

Remember, heat rises. So if you’re upstairs most of the time, you actually don’t need to set your temp very high. Test out what setting works for you and then let it work. Now I keep my temperature consistent because we’re mostly upstairs, but if we go downstairs for a little while, I’ll just turn the space heater on.

*Biggest Energy-Saving DO*

The BIGGEST lesson I had to learn required me to unlearn something I had been taught growing up. A lot of us believe that it’s best to leave the temperature where it is all day, every day. So most of us turn on the heat and the a/c and we never turn it off. I always heard that’s the best way to do it. IT’S A MYTH! It turns out, the best thing you can do for your home is:

TURN OFF THE HEAT WHEN YOU’RE NOT HOME! I know it sucks to come back to a cold house, but it’s better than paying for heat you’re not using. What happens when I leave the heat on? Basically, my heat is working nonstop to warm my house with nobody in it. So it doesn’t really make sense. Plus, now there are smart thermostats that you can use to change the temperature in your house before you get home. I’m planning to get one soon so that I can turn the heat on when I leave work. That way, the house is warm by the time I get there, but my bill isn’t super high.

Use Your Energy Company Resources

Regardless of who your energy provider is (for example, in Indianapolis we have IPL and Duke Energy), they probably provide resources on their website to help you manage your energy bill. Just go online, register your account or sign in, and search for resources. Here are some tools to look out for:

Energy Saving Tips. Who knows better about saving energy than the people who provide it? I got a lot of help with cutting costs just by checking the savings tips.

Budget Billing. I don’t know if this is available everywhere, but budget billing basically helps you by making your monthly bill consistent. You choose to pay a set amount every month, even if it’s higher than what you would actually spend. Then, at the end of the month or year, you get back whatever money you didn’t spend or you pay the difference if you went over. This helps me avoid being surprised by a $700 for three months.

Discounts. Like I mentioned earlier, you can get free or discounted lightbulbs from your energy provider. I was able to replace all of the bulbs in my house for free.

Energy Use Tool. This can help you figure out where in your house you use the most energy. Is it laundry, dishes, showers or just leaving the lights on? You might be surprised by what you find. From there, you can make whatever changes you need to cut costs.

Prepare Your Home for Winter

The reality of buying a house is that it’s expensive. I’m not just talking about closing costs and mortgage; I mean all of the maintenance, the extra fees, and especially the lifestyle changes. I was shocked when I saw my bills last winter because I was so used to being in a small apartment and being able to put the heat as high as I wanted to. But with a house, the space is bigger so your heat has to work harder and it costs more. Being a homeowner is fun and all, but it comes with a lot of responsibilities. I’m learning to cut costs where I can, but honestly, I wish I had known all of this even back in my apartment days. These are easy ways to get money back in your pocket. I hope you can learn from my struggles!