For many people, the winter months aren’t that welcome, and they can even be downright spooky for good reason. The cold weather can be more than uncomfortable. Winter storms can be dangerous and cause significant property damage. Rising energy costs can also be a frightful prospect for your monthly budget.
Getting through the winter months is less scary when you know your home is in good condition, there’s community support you can turn to and you’ve got a plan for conserving energy.
Make Sure Your Home is Ready to Weather the Winter
Preparing a home for winter is critical anywhere the temperature could drop below freezing, which is most of the U.S. When temperatures dip below 32 degrees Fahrenheit that’s when damage can occur. Research from the Texas A&M University determined that if temperatures outside reach 20 degrees Fahrenheit that’s when ice can form in pipes and cause them to burst.
Make sure you avoid those issues by taking the steps below to get your home ready to weather the winter.
- Furnace maintenance and repair should be done before the temperatures drop. In addition to circumventing heat loss when you need it most, doing so can reduce the wear on your furnace and even make it run more efficiently so energy is conserved.
- Insulate pipes, especially ones on the exterior to prevent freezing.
- Insulate around the water heater, especially if it’s in an unheated space.
- If you have a basement, that’s another area to insulate. Insulating a basement helps minimize moisture that can make it feel colder inside.
- Keep a ready supply of winter essentials including:
- Bottled water
- Canned food
- Hand radio with batteries
- First aid kit
- Kitty litter, salt or sand
- Snow shovel
- Warm blankets, sleeping bags and coats
If you have a fireplace, you’ll want to give it some attention as well. Make sure that everything is clean and in working order so it’s a reliable heating source.
Tap Into Community Support
Getting your home ready for the winter weather is important, but it comes at a cost. While weatherization often doesn’t cost much and will increase energy efficiency, it’s still an upfront investment. Luckily, there are federal, state and community support programs that can help offset the cost. Just keep in mind you may need to meet income and household requirements to qualify for some programs.
There are federal programs, like the Weatherization Assistance Program and Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP), that are administered through state governments as well as programs that are specific to each state. Checking with your state energy and housing agencies is a good way to find out about available programs.
Here are a few resources that can help you locate aid in your area:
You can also find local resources that are closer to home. Often the local utility will offer energy saving programs throughout the year that are aimed at helping homeowners make efficiency improvements.
Many cities also offer assistance to residents that can help make the winter less frightful and more delightful. For example, Chicago administers the Emergency Heating Repair Program (EHRP) to help residents pay for heating system repairs and replacing equipment.
The local housing authority may also be able to provide assistance for renters. If they don’t offer direct assistance with energy costs in the winter, they may be able to provide other forms of relief that make it easier to pay your utility bill.
Your energy supplier can also be a valuable resource. If they’re like Major Energy, they will provide you with advice on how to conserve energy and offer special rebates that can be used to get your home ready for winter. Major Energy has also worked with local communities on special projects like donating LED light bulbs to Rebuilding Together Philadelphia, a community nonprofit organization that helps people make home improvements.
Create a Plan for Conserving Energy During the Winter
If you’re thinking about how you can conserve energy at home this winter you’re off to a strong start. There are a number of other things you can do to save energy now and as the seasons change.
- Weatherizing your home is always recommended in both the fall and spring. Weatherization is known to help conserve energy in the winter by preventing heated air from leaking out of the home and keeping cold air from seeping in. Follow these winter weatherization tips to fix air leaks, improve insulation and more.
- Either have a professional do an energy audit of your home or do one yourself. An energy audit will help you understand how you use energy and where it’s being wasted or can be conserved. There are even state and local programs that can help cover the cost of an energy audit in some areas.
- Once you’ve audited your energy use, decide what fixes you can make now to conserve more energy during the winter months. Consider three things: how much energy a fix will likely save in the wintertime, how much it will cost and how easy it is to do. It’s best to start with relatively easy fixes that will save the most energy when it’s cold out. For instance, changing dirty air filters can significantly improve the energy efficiency of a furnace or HVAC system, and it only takes a few minutes to do.
- Heating the home is easily the biggest energy cost in the winter. Consider ways to keep warm without increasing the thermostat above 68-70 degrees Fahrenheit, which is the temperature recommended by the U.S. Department of Energy. Adding an extra layer of clothing could be enough to keep comfortable. Many people use space heaters, however it’s extremely important that you know how to use them safely. Space heaters are the number one cause of fires that are started from a heating source.
If you haven’t yet secured a fixed rate energy plan, now is the time to do so. In the northeast and midwest, a cold winter can impact energy prices. A fixed rate plan gives you more security knowing that you have locked in a rate that won’t change.
If you live in a Major Energy service area, you can easily find available fixed rate energy plans online in minutes. All you need is a zip code to secure energy rates the entire winter season.