January 12th, 2024
Cold weather prep: Here's what you need to know
Extreme temperatures most often occur during the summer and winter months. Both seasons require preparedness for energy conservation but the winter months typically require a few more steps to help keep your energy bill low.
Long-term solutions for energy efficiency
The best thing you can do is prepare ahead of time, so you’re not running around frantically trying to make up for months of work in just a few days or hours. Here’s what we recommend doing in the spring or fall to put yourself ahead when it matters most.
Weather-stripping your windows and doors
Gaps in your fenestration can do two things: let air in and out. Sealing up gaps in those vulnerable areas can be done as a quick DIY project and save you about 10% off your energy costs.
Caulk your home to limit air leaks
Small gaps in your home can wreak havoc on your energy bill but is a quick fix that can save you hundreds a year. Take some time to do an audit of areas that need some attention. You may be surprised to know that a cheap tube of caulk could help lower your energy bill up to 20% a year, and keep your home’s overall infrastructure in better shape.
Install an electric water heater timer
Your water heater uses about 12 kWh of energy tacking on about $48 to your monthly energy bill. Installing a water heater timer can help reduce your usage about 21% per month. If your water heater is older, consider a hot water jacket to keep the heat from escaping. A jacket can help you save about 13% a year.
Get a unit tune-up
If you’re running a furnace, heat pump, or air conditioning unit you’ll want to get it checked at least once a year to make sure it’s running properly and as efficiently as possible.
Insulate your home
Reduce your heating or cooling costs by making sure your home is well-insulated. If your home isn’t properly insulated, you’re wasting hundreds of dollars a year on energy costs because you’re using double the power needed to keep your home comfortable. It’s recommended that you have about three to four inches of insulation in your exterior walls and ten to fourteen inches in your attic.
Get Intelligent Octopus for your smart thermostat
Conserve your home’s energy usage hands-free with Intelligent Octopus. This can help reduce your energy costs by about 30% a year. Intelligent Octopus is compatible with Amazon, ecobee, Google Nest, Honeywell, and Sensi thermostats.
Get your chimney inspected
An easy and invisible way air can escape or enter your home is through the chimney. We recommend getting it inspected at least once a year to make sure there are no fire hazards should you need to start a fire. It’s also good to make sure your damper is properly sealed to prevent air from getting in or out.
Lower your water heater temperature
Water heaters by default are set to 140 degrees but most homes can live comfortably when they’re set at 120 degrees. By lowering your unit to 120, you can save anywhere between 4% to 22% depending on your current setting. All you need is a thermometer and marker to get started.
Quick wins to keep warm
Heating your home uses more energy than any other appliance or device, and makes up about 30% of your overall bill. Before you go running for your thermostat, there are a few quick things you can do to keep yourself and your home cozy when the temperature drops to help conserve energy and reduce costs.
Let that sunshine in
During the day, pull back the shades and curtains to let the sun in to warm your home.
We don’t recommend going Chandler Bing ala Friends when adding a layer or two to stay warm before turning up your heater.
Wrap up in an electric blanket
Electric blankets are a fantastic way to stay warm for a few cents a day.
Set your thermostat
During cold snaps, we recommend keeping your thermostat set to 68 to help keep costs low. The higher you set your thermostat, the harder your unit is working to keep your home warm and you can expect at least a 3% increase (or more) to your energy costs. Be sure to also set your unit’s fan settings to auto and not on so it’s not running more than necessary.
Don’t fidget with your thermostat
It can be tempting to raise your thermostat eight to ten degrees to quickly warm up your house but that will do more harm than good because your unit has to work harder and faster to reach your desired setting.
Instead, we recommend a “set it and forget it” approach and to make micro adjustments, about two to three degrees at a time to your thermostat until you’ve reached your desired comfort level. This will do two things:
- Keep your unit running smoothly and not needing to “sprint” to get to the finish line (Think of the tortoise and the hare, slow and steady wins the race)
- Stop your unit from going into an inefficient and costly cycle of start, stop, start stop which can add up on your bill and hurt your unit.
Keep this information handy for an emergency situation
Should the worst-case scenario happen and you lose power, have an emergency plan in place and know who to contact and what to do.
You’ll immediately want to avoid heat loss of any kind. Here are some quick things you can do to help:
- Put towels or blankets around the base of your doors. Pick one door to leave and enter in.
- Utilize south facing windows for heat if it’s sunny and keep other windows covered to prevent heat loss.
- Move your family into a central room with pillows, blankets, and other necessities and keep the windows and doors closed to retain some heat.
- Fire up that fireplace.
- Use a portable heater with proper ventilation. Make sure it’s indoor-safe to avoid carbon monoxide poisoning.
- Crank up your generator to keep the basics going.
- If you’re going to use your car for warmth, the CDC recommends parking it in your driveway or street to lessen your risk of carbon monoxide poisoning. This should be a last resort effort because it can be dangerous.
Emergency contact information
Check for outages and report them to your local utility:
- AEP Texas – Call 877-373-4858. You can follow the latest news from AEP and get status updates on Twitter.
- CenterPoint Energy – Call 800-332-7143. See CenterPoint's power outage map.
- Oncor – Call 888-313-4747. See Oncor's power outage map You can also subscribe to alerts for status updates directly from Oncor.
- Texas-New Mexico Power – Call 888-866-7456. See Texas-New Mexico Power's outage map. You can also see their latest status updates on Facebook and Twitter.
- Lubbock Power and Light - Call 806-775-2509. See LP&L's power outage map.
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