Chicago winters can be brutal. And so can heating costs. To help save money off monthly utility bills during the winter, Chicago electric and natural gas customers can always install new, energy-efficient furnaces. However, if that’s not an option, or if you already have one installed, don’t fret. Here’s a list of eight other things you can do to save energy this winter.
1. Set your thermostat back
Because cold temperatures can be extreme in Chicago, for every eight hours you set your thermostat back one degree, you can save up to 3 percent on your monthly utility bill. A good idea is to set your thermostat back (make it colder) by 10 degrees while you’re not home or while you’re asleep at home. If you can keep your home’s temperature 10 degrees lower for 16 hours a day, you can save up to 14 percent on your utility bill.
2. Close fireplace dampers
This one’s easy. Warm air rises and cold air sinks. If you have a fireplace, keep the damper closed when you’re not using it to prevent warm inside air from escaping up the chimney and cold air from coming into your home.
3. Set your water heater temperature lower
Unless you have a tankless, on-demand water heater, your water heater is constantly running to maintain the hot temperature of the water in its tank. Although some manufacturers set water heater temperatures at 140 degrees, 120 degrees is usually sufficient. You might even be able to go lower. For every 10 degrees you lower your water heater thermostat, you can save between 3 percent and 5 percent in energy costs.
4. Change furnace air filters regularly
Maintaining clean furnace air filters is easy, which is good, because dirty air filters make the furnace work harder and you spend more money on heating. Although you should replace furnace air filters every three months during the spring, summer and fall, you should replace them every month during the winter.
5. Run fans more often
Consider running ceiling fans, floor fans or your furnace fan more often to help warm air move more evenly around the house. Doing so will increase your comfort and might allow you to set your furnace’s thermostat a few degrees lower.
6. Keep home vents clean and clear
Like keeping your furnace’s air filters clean, keeping your home’s vents clean and clear of obstructions and debris will allow your furnace to work easier to heat your entire home.
7. Seal your windows
You can head to the hardware store, buy some materials and get down to the business of sealing all the cracks around your windows or you can take the easy, albeit temporary, way out and simply cover your windows with plastic. Although making the effort to properly seal cracks around your windows is the best way to permanently prevent a lot of warm air from leaking outside and cold air from coming inside, covering your windows with plastic can help some when you’re in a pinch, especially on windy days.
8. Get a furnace tune-up
Finally, one of the best things you can do to increase your energy savings this winter is to give your furnace a tune-up, especially if it’s old. A tune up will help the furnace run more efficiently and help you avoid costly repairs in the dead of winter. For best results, Chicago homeowners should have their furnaces tuned up twice a year.
“Furnace Energy Saving Tips Winter 2011,” TDH Mechanical, Oct. 5, 2011.
U.S. Department of Energy, Energy Efficiency & Renewable Energy, “Thermostats and Control Systems.”
U.S. Department of Energy, Energy Efficiency & Renewable Energy, “Lower Water Heating Temperature for Energy Savings