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Top Ten Tips to Stay Warm, Save Energy, and Reduce Utility Bills

Updated: 11/27/2013 11:16 AM
Created: 11/26/2013 6:10 PM WDIO.com
By: Minnesota Department of Commerce

As the temperature drops, there are some basic steps that all of us can take to save energy, reduce our utility bills, and keep our homes safe this winter season, according to the Minnesota Department of Commerce, Division of Energy Resources.

"As heating systems crank up and we feel those cool drafts seeping through doors and windows, there are some basic measures to keep the warm air in and our heating bills down," said Commerce Commissioner Mike Rothman. "Simple no-cost and low-cost steps can save lots of energy and prevent costly repairs."

The Commerce Department is committed to helping Minnesotans make informed decisions about energy use. Please consider the following energy-saving tips:

  • Set your thermostat low; use a programmable thermostat. Set your thermostat as low as is comfortable when you are home. Turn down the temperature about 10 degrees—manually or via programmable thermostat—at night when you go to bed and when you’re not at home. This can reduce your heating bill by about 10 percent.
  • Weather strip and caulk windows and doors to eliminate air infiltration.
  • Cover drafty windows with tightly sealed plastic to keep the warm air in.
  • Open curtains and blinds on south-facing windows to let the sun in during the day to naturally heat your home, and close them at night to reduce the chill from cold windows.
  • Seal air leaks to prevent cold air infiltration around chimneys, vents, pipes, and wires. Plugging air leaks is one of the most cost-effective ways to conserve energy and increase comfort—and is the key to preventing ice dams.  
  • Close your fireplace damper when a fire is not in use and install airtight doors to prevent warm air from escaping. If the fireplace is no longer used, seal the flue with an inflatable plug.
  • Maintain your heating system. Have your furnace or boiler inspected annually to ensure maximum efficiency and safety, consider replacing mechanical systems if they’re old or inefficient, and clean or replace furnace filters regularly as needed. For wood and pellet-burning heaters, clean the flue vent and the inside of the appliance to improve efficiency.
  • Turn down the temperature of your water heater to 120 degrees F. Not only will this save energy, it will reduce the chances of scalds.
  • Take short showers—with low-flow showerheads—instead of baths to reduce hot water use.
  • Use light-emitting diode—or LED—holiday light strings to reduce the expense to decorate your home for the winter holidays.
  • Bonus Tip: Look for the ENERGY STAR® label when purchasing new household products. ENERGY STAR signifies strict energy efficiency and reliability guidelines set by the Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE).

These energy-saving tips were collected from several sources, including the DOE energy saver website. For more information on energy efficiency and energy conservation, visit the Division of Energy Resources (DER) website and check out two energy guides: "Home Envelope" and "Appliances, Lighting, Electronics."

DER recommends advanced energy audits of homes to diagnose the best ways to save energy. Audits can be facilitated through your electric or gas utility, the Minnesota Building Performance Association, or nonprofit energy groups.

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