Turn Mild Months into Savings When the Weather Turns

If you live in the Midwest, your energy bill probably isn’t top of mind during temperate fall months. Along with late spring, it’s a special time when you can reliably give your HVAC system a rest, enjoy the fresh breeze of an open window, and count on an energy bill that won’t cause your jaw to drop.

It’s tempting to let those lower energy bills lull you to sleep, but the co-op members making real Power Moves take the shorter, milder months as an opportunity to prepare for the harsher, longer months of winter. By using the spare change you’re saving on your electric bill this time of year to invest in some simple upgrades around the house, you can set yourself up for success—and savings—when the weather turns cold.

Low-Hanging Fruit

Not every investment in efficiency requires a fancy new appliance or six months of financing. If you decide to throw a few bucks at some of these ideas, you’ll probably see a real impact on your energy use over time.

  • Switch to LED light bulbs.
    • Lighting is one of the biggest sources of energy use in your home. LED bulbs produce light up to 90% more efficiently than incandescent bulbs, so it’s a big difference over time. At around $3-5 each, LED bulbs remain more expensive than their incandescent or fluorescent predecessors, but since they last so much longer, it doesn’t take much time to cover the cost of your investment.
  • Insulate your hot water pipes. 
    • While you’re prepping for winter, adding insulation to your hot water pipes reduces heat loss and can deliver water at temperatures an average of 2-4 degrees Fahrenheit warmer than uninsulated pipes, allowing you to lower the temperature setting on your hot water heater. This DIY project has the added benefit of preventing pipes in exterior walls from bursting when freezing weather hits. Win-win!
  • Install an outdoor clothesline.
    • For just a few bucks, you can set up an outdoor clothesline and skip a few laundry cycles in the dryer while allowing the sun to do the drying for you. With a little patience, the method your great-grandmother used to dry her clothes remains an effective (and inexpensive) way to get the job done. It won’t be an option during those cold, winter months, but you can get it back out in the spring and reap the savings all over again.

A Step Above

Not every home efficiency upgrade can be accomplished with pocket change. The good news is, by investing a few more bucks, you can set yourself up for even bigger savings down the road. If you’re willing to make a more substantial investment in your home’s energy efficiency, these ideas are ones you might want to explore.

  • Replace your HVAC’s air filter. 
    • Your air filter clogs up with dust and hair over time. That’s a good thing. It’s why we have a filter in the first place, but it also means your HVAC system has to work a lot harder to heat your home. Stay on top of maintenance to your HVAC system, and replace your air filter regularly.
  • Install a Wi-Fi thermostat.
    • A Wi-Fi thermostat isn’t nearly as expensive as it used to be. You can find basic models for around $150, and even a premium version caps out around $250. These thermostats give you greater control over your home temperature, and they make maximizing the efficiency of your HVAC system easier. Once your new Wi-Fi thermostat is in place, earn more rebates and additional savings by signing up for our PowerShift Wi-Fi Thermostat Program.
  • Invest in a whole-home energy monitor. 
    • Whole-home energy monitors can measure how much electricity your home uses down to the individual circuits and even single devices. These devices make identifying other ways to save easy. For several hundred dollars, a monitor can give you real-time, actionable data to help you make more adjustments to your home energy use.

Still not sure where to start? Schedule an energy audit

If the DIY projects we outlined above feel like a game of whack-a-mole or you’re looking for a more comprehensive view of your home energy use, a conversation with your electric cooperative’s energy advisor can offer tips, advice, and other services to help you save energy. It’s a great way to take the first step toward going green, saving more energy, and making sure your home is a comfortable place to live. Your energy advisor will provide a professional opinion on where you can improve efficiency—and point you toward programs and incentives that can help you get them done.