7 Fall Fix-ups to Lower Electric Bills

A Georgia resident carefully carries a ladder
Fall maintenance on your home is a great way to save money and energy.

Smart and simple improvements to keep your home comfortable and energy efficient when temperatures begin falling.

Autumn is here. It’s time to rake the leaves, put away the pool toys and ready your home for winter. As you’re making your fall chore list, don’t forget to add some easy fix-ups that can help you save money on heating this winter.

Heating and cooling accounts for around half (48 percent) of the total energy use in a typical home, so it has the greatest impact on the monthly electric bill. According to the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), most homeowners can save anywhere from 5 to 30 percent on heating costs by finding and fixing energy-wasting trouble spots around the house.

Most homeowners can save anywhere from 5 to 30 percent on heating costs by finding and fixing energy-wasting trouble spots around the house.

We polled Walton EMC’s energy experts for their top fall maintenance tips for decreasing your home’s energy consumption and lowering electric bills.

1. Replace or clean filters.

“It’s the easiest thing you can do to help your heating system operate at peak efficiency,” advises Rigs Santos, residential energy advisor.

Dust and debris in the filter slows down the flow of air, forcing your heating or cooling system to work harder to maintain a comfortable temperature in your home. The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) estimates that keeping your filter clean can reduce your energy consumption by 5 to 15 percent. For the average Walton EMC homeowner, this can result in heating cost savings averaging $7–$20 every single month.

Inspect your air filter every 30 days to see if it is dirty and clogged. Replace at recommend intervals. Never have a clean filter available when you need it? Read this recent review of subscription filter services by Good Air Geeks and sign up for one.

2. Clear it.

“Go around your home and make sure there’s no carpeting, furniture or draperies blocking your return and supply vents and registers,” says Cindy Haddon, marketing specialist.

Putting furniture over registers blocks the flow of warm air coming out of them, which causes your system to run longer cycles, and — you guessed it — cost you more money to operate.

3. Schedule HVAC maintenance.

“Don’t wait until you think something is wrong with your heating system to call for maintenance,” advises Jeff Paul, residential energy advisor.

A well-maintained and serviced HVAC system is highly efficient in both its functionality and electricity consumption. Schedule a fall maintenance check of your heating system by a qualified HVAC technician. During a tune-up, small problems can be detected before they turn into big ones.

4. Invest in a thermostat upgrade.

If you’re still using a manual thermostat, it’s time to consider upgrading to a programmable or smart one, suggests Santos. “There’s plenty of evidence out there that shows the investment in an upgraded device is rewarded with a lower electric bill,” he said.

The key feature of both a programmable and smart thermostat is that you can program your home's heating and cooling systems to turn down automatically when you're asleep or away. If you like all the bells and whistles, a smart thermostat offers added benefits such as control from your smartphone, energy reports, run times, and even reminders to replace the air filter. 

Many variables factor into determining how much energy savings is possible with these devices. On average, expect at least 8 to 10 percent savings on heating costs. Some thermostat manufacturers claim a 20 percent savings is possible.

Many smart thermostats advertise DIY installation, but it can be tricky for most consumers, Walker adds. Unless you are particularly handy or tech-savvy, you’ll probably need to enlist the assistance of an HVAC contractor, electrician or handyman.

Money Saver: Save time and money by scheduling a thermostat replacement and HVAC tune-up for the same service call.

5. Seal air leaks.

Thoroughly sealing the thermal envelope of your home can cut 10 percent from your energy bill,” notes Sherry Horvieth, consumer services director.

Air escapes most often from: fireplaces, eaves, ridge vents, electrical outlets, light fixtures, floors, walls, ceilings, ducts, plumbing penetrations, doors, windows, fans and vents. Keep drafts at bay by filling cracks with caulk or spray insulation. Replace worn or insufficient weather stripping around doors and windows.

6. Inspect ductwork.

Finding and repairing split, fallen or perforated ductwork can save you a bundle on heating costs. “In a typical house, about 20 to 30 percent of the air that moves through the duct system is lost due to leaks, holes and poorly connected ducts,” explains Greg Brooks, community and public relations director.

Energystar.gov suggests sealing air leaks using mastic sealant or metal tape. Seal leaks on all the ducts you can access in places such as attics, crawlspaces, unfinished basements and garages. Also, make sure connections at vents and registers are tightly sealed where they meet the floors, walls and ceiling.

7. Increase attic insulation.

While you’re up in the attic, check out your insulation. Unless your home was specially constructed for energy efficiency, you can probably reduce your heating costs by adding more insulation.

Eighty percent of a home’s heat gain and heat loss

is through the attic.

“Eighty percent of a home’s heat gain and heat loss is through the attic, so it makes smart dollars and sense to be sure you have adequate insulation there,” says Keith Taylor, commercial and industrial energy advisor. The DOE estimates that a well-insulated attic can shave 10 to 50 percent off your heating bill.

To determine whether you should add insulation, you first need to find out how much you already have. Watch this video from Energy Star to learn how to measure your insulation.

Autumn audit

To help you prioritize your fall project list, first conduct a simple DIY home energy audit. Walton EMC experts suggest:

Home Energy Audit Video. During this how-to video, Walton EMC’s energy experts show you how to look for leaks and other energy wasters.

Home Energy Saver, an online tool that uses information you supply to determine which improvement projects will yield the greatest energy savings.

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