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Winter is coming: 10 ways to cut your utility bill

vipHomeLink-winter-home By Caroline Brenneis

In this episode of "Game of Homes," we deal with skyrocketing utility bills, and you can win without a fire-breathing dragon thanks to these home hacks.  

Source: HBO and Imgflip

Winter is coming...and with it comes higher energy bills. Not only can this put a strain on the environment, but it can also put a lot of pressure on your wallet. Keep more money in your bank account and keep your house (almost) as warm as summertime while reducing the energy you consume with a few quick and easy home management solutions.

(Please note: No dragons were harmed in the making of this list.) 

#1: Let the sunshine in  

​Opening your blinds and curtains during daylight hours helps to brighten your home and your spirits - literally. The increased light inside your house generates heat and provides...well, light, and it does so for free. Plus, the Department of Energy found that daylighting (or the act of harnessing sunlight for heat and light) increases productivity and lowers absenteeism, which is great news for work-from-home professionals. You may also want to consider using solar-powered lights outdoors to reduce your energy consumption even further.

#2: Turn down the heat  

Lowering the temperature when you're away from home or sleeping saves you money. Consider investing in a programmable thermostat, which can be set to automatically turn down your heat during designated hours. Estimates find that for every eight hours that your heat is one degree lower, you save one percent on your energy bill. If you lower your home temperature by several degrees during working hours, your savings will rise even higher.

#3: Avoid energy vampires 

According to NerdWallet, electronics and lights account for roughly 12 percent of a family's energy consumption, and electronics continue to use energy even when turned off or on standby mode. Combat energy vampires by plugging TVs, computers, and similar items into a smart power cord that can be turned off via an app. For small appliances that are used less often, such as a toaster, simply unplug when not in use.

#4: Lights out for incandescent light bulbs 

​Get rid of your incandescent light bulbs to save up to 30 percent on your bill, or roughly $75 a year. LED or CFL bulbs create the same level of light as incandescent light bulbs but through more energy-efficient means. If you're still a bit in the dark about these new energy savers, QUEST shines some light on the subject with Light Bulb Lineup.

#5: Upgrade your appliances  

While this might not be an option right now, upgrading your appliances can be a great investment in your utility bill. Look for appliances with the blue ENERGY STAR® label, which denotes the product as meeting strict cost saving and energy efficiency requirements. Energy Star even divides the country into four climate zones, so you can choose the appliances that best suit your home. If you can't afford to replace all your old appliances at once, start with your refrigerator or washing machine. Old, inefficient refrigerators can cost between $140-$160 to run annually, while an Energy Star-rated fridge can cost as little as $20. Top-loading washing machines are also incredibly inefficient, but front-loading machines can use 50 percent less energy and up to one-third less water.

In 2017 alone, consumers saved more than $18 billion in energy cost by using ENERGY STAR certified products.

#6: Keep the cold in with more food  

​Of course, you should keep your refrigerator door closed, especially when you're using your oven, but you also need to stock your refrigerator and freezer. The cold food helps to insulate the area and keep your food cooler, longer. This shortens your freezer and refrigerator's running time, also saving you money.

#7: Keep the cold out with weatherstripping  

​Even if you have weatherstripping around your draftly doors and windows, it might be time to replace it. Properly installed weatherstripping can help seal up your home and save you up to 15 percent on your utility bill. It's super simple DIY project that every homeowner can complete in one afternoon, and your local home improvement store has a wide range of options to help you through every step, from window jambs to door sweeps

#8: Go all out with dual-zone heating and cooling 

​We know this is a big ticket item and may only be practical if you're already considering renovating, building a home, or installing central air. With a dual-zone heating and cooling system, you can heat or cool specific areas of your house rather than wasting money by keeping your HVAC unit working on your own home. Maximize your savings by choosing a programmable thermostat in each zone. (This is also a great addition for families with members who like to live at different temperatures.)

#9: Keep the airflow clear  

Your car isn't the only item that needs a clean air filter, and any airflow issues in your HVAC unit can cut efficiency up to 40 percent. Depending upon your type of unit, you may need to clean your filter every month or every three months. Electrical media filters can even last up to a year. Check your unit's manual before changing your filter, and when in doubt, call a professional.

Explore other necessary maintenance to your HVAC unit in "Not-so-scary essential fall home maintenance."

#10: Cast some shade on your house 

For those of you playing the long game, planting deciduous trees - trees that lose their leaves in the fall - will throw some shade on your house in the summer and stop the sun's warming rays from getting through. In the winter, the bare trees let light hit your house, keeping it warm during cooler temperatures. (Re: Item #1.) Plus, having more trees is great for the environment. Just make sure to clip the branches during fall to keep your roof in tip-top shape.

The night is dark and full of terrors, but don't worry. Here at vipHomeLink, we know the night comes, and now our watch begins. We can help you manage your house - and your utility bills. Our interactive app sends helpful maintenance tips and reminders directly to your dashboard. Know when to clean your air filters, which light bulbs to use, and even how to avoid energy vampires - or y'know, the Night King.

Not a member? Subscribe now with your first 90 days on us. 

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