Tips to Reduce Your Heating Bills & Increase Your Home’s Efficiency
Posted on January 23rd, 2024
This month, as the very cold weather hits our region, I want to talk about energy efficiency and energy savings.
With climate change and the severe weather occurrences we’re experiencing, we need to be mindful of our home’s ability to hold hot and cool air. In addition, we need to understand how our marginalized/lower income communities are most affected by these aspects of a home’s energy efficiency.
To discuss this a little more, my colleague Melissa Johnson has written this op-ed that I would like to share.
“Energy usage is not just an environmental issue, it’s a social justice issue. Steps to make homes more energy efficient, while necessary to move us toward a more sustainable and a healthier planet, go beyond the surface-level eco questions. For many, but particularly for historically marginalized groups, making one’s home more energy efficient is a task that is out of reach. Indeed, options like energy efficient appliances, winterization, low-flow toilets, solar, and more require access and investment often exclusive to higher income brackets.
Aside from excluding lower incomes, these eco measures, by extension, often exclude minority groups, too, as non-white residents historically earn lower wages than their white counterparts and historically populate lower-income communities. Really moving the needle where the environment is concerned requires moving the needle on issues of diversity, equity, and inclusion as well.
Until energy efficient mechanisms are truly accessible to everyone we will rely on a small minority of upper class, white consumers to carry the full burden of changing the culture around energy usage.”
Here is a quote by Caroline Belden that resonates with me: “Equality is leaving the door open for anyone who has the means to approach it; equity is ensuring there is a pathway to that door for those who need it.”
As you think about energy efficiency and savings, here are a few simple, and possibly inexpensive, ideas that will help reduce your energy bills.
Switch to LED bulbs.
Take shorter showers, or get low flow faucets, as it will reduce the amount of hot water you use (easy to say if you don’t have teenagers).
Use liquid detergent and cold water to wash clothes.
Turn your thermostat down and wear sweats and sweaters (we keep ours at 65 but 3 degrees can make a lot of difference).
Clean and/or replace furnace filters regularly.
If you have old windows, wood framed or aluminum, add film over them to hold in heat.
Did you know that you can change the direction the ceiling spins making the warm air blow down from the ceiling (since heat rises).
A microwave oven can reduce energy usage by about two-thirds, and a toaster oven or air-fryer can cut energy usage in half, so use one of them whenever possible.
After using your oven, full size, toaster or air fryer, leave the door open to let the heat into the room.
Install power strips on all your electronics and turn them off when not in use, as these “appliances” use what is called a phantom load (consumes energy even when turned off).
If you are one who likes to leave the windows open to get “fresh air” consider buying an air cleaner; the cost of the air cleaner is considerably less than paying for the heat that goes out the window.
Lastly, if you are in a position to get an energy audit, do so. Here is a link to the Community Energy Challenge in Bellingham. They have subsidies to help lower income homeowners. Home Energy Audit.
While these are less expensive options to reduce your energy bills, there are other options for reducing energy costs that would be higher priced. Examples include adding solar, updating the water heater and the whole house heating system, and upgrading old appliances to energy star. In addition, over the long term, some of these small changes will help indoor air quality as well as the home’s comfort level. Both of these aspects will also improve our health, helping to reduce doctor’s visits and out of pocket expenses.
For more resources and information, check out the links below, or call me for referrals to experts within my network who can help you.