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Chill Winter Utility Bills

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  There is no doubt that winter is here is full force. If you are like many savvy midwesterners, you have prepped for winter by replacing your HVAC filter, checking the weather-stripping around your home for air leaks, and scheduling an energy audit from your local power company, you’re ahead of the game on reducing utility expenses this winter. Here are even more ways to lower your bills.

Know your thermo. For each degree you drop your thermostat (between 60-70 degrees), you can reduce energy expense by 5 percent. For maximum savings, set your thermostat to 68 degrees when you’re home and 55 degrees when away or sleeping. Programmable and smart-home thermostats help save even more by regulating temperatures automatically.

A tankless job. Heating water accounts for about 12 percent of utility costs for most households. Traditional tank-style heaters are less efficient than on-demand or tankless systems because they must continuously keep water warm. However, lowering the temperature to 120 degrees on tank-style heaters will reduce costs. Every 10-degree reduction in temperature can lead to savings of 3 to 5 percent on your bill.

Flip (or fill) your fridge. According to the EPA, more than 60 million refrigerators are over ten years old, costing consumers $4.4 billion a year. If you’re in the market for a new fridge, consider a top-freezer model certified by Energy Star, which uses less energy than a 60-watt light bulb. If a new refrigerator isn’t an option, keep your current one as full as possible. Food acts as insulation and shortens the amount of time your fridge needs to run to keep items cold.

Shed a little light. Swap household incandescent bulbs for LED bulbs, which are approximately 90 percent more efficient and last years longer. Also consider installing dimmer switches, giving you even more control over energy use as well as the ability to add an ambient touch to your space.

Preempt your phantoms. Seventy-five percent of the energy consumption by home electronics is when devices are off but still plugged in. The most common culprits of “phantom” or standby power include TVs, DVD players, stereos, computers, kitchen appliances and phone chargers. Place items on a power-strip so that you can turn it off will save money by the minute.

Big fan of savings? While running a fan during winter seems counterintuitive, you can boost HVAC efficiency and reduce your costs up to an additional 10 percent by changing the direction of your ceiling fans to run clockwise. The fan will push warm air that rises to the ceiling down throughout the rest of the room. Look for the switch on the side of the motor.

Sources: The Balance, Apartment Therapy,