How to reduce home energy costs this winter

“Oh the weather outside is frightful.” That line from the classic song “Let it Snow” usually heard this time of year is a reminder winter is upon us, bringing hot chocolate, holidays – oh, and higher energy bills.

But we can all sing a happy tune about saving energy and money, and reducing our impact on the climate, if we’re a little smarter about how we stay toasty in our homes this winter.

Most homeowners’ largest energy expense comes from space heating, which accounts for nearly 30 percent of a typical household’s annual utility bill (and 40 percent of home energy use).

As for environmental impact, the energy used in residential buildings — for space heating and cooling, water heating, appliances, electronics and lighting — is responsible for more than one-fifth of total U.S. energy-related carbon emissions.

Space heating accounts for almost 30 percent of a typical home’s energy bill. Source: U.S. Environmental Protection Agency

Replacing older space and water heaters with new, more efficient models is a key way to save energy. And using natural gas, instead of electricity, for space and water heating results in less carbon emissions. Installing energy-efficient windows and insulation also can make a difference on home heating bills. But all of these projects can be expensive and involved, so be sure to take the time to consider what’s right for your home.

If it’s not the right time to upgrade your home or its systems, saving money can be as simple as adjusting the temperature.

Setting your water heater to a cooler temperature (120 degrees F) can reduce fuel consumption by 5-10 percent. (Putting on an insulating blanket on the water heater is another energy-saver.)

Installing a programmable thermostat and setting it to anything lower than 68 degrees when you are out could save you up to 15 percent on your heating bill.

Today, consumers also can take advantage of new technologies that let you remotely control your home’s heating and cooling, lighting, and more – all from your smart phone. Online access makes it more convenient to adjust the lights and thermostat if you’re away. Some products even try to learn your preferences over time, making it easy to “set it and forget it.”

These sophisticated energy management technologies treat your home like a system rather than a collection of plugs. The information they provide let homeowners make better decisions about when and how to use energy. One smart technology company touts 10 percent savings on energy bills.

This winter, take advantage of the many opportunities to better manage your home’s energy use to save money and lessen your impact on the climate. It could be something to sing about.