With the 2014 polar vortex still a fresh memory, an early-season arctic chill has already blown over much of the nation, according to CNN. The cold snap – which brought record November lows to nearly every region – has many homeowners thinking about winter energy savings and how they will cope with unpredictable propane prices.
6 tips for overcoming high energy and propane prices
A frigid and snowy start to 2014 drove up the cost of propane as demand increased and the weather interrupted supply lines. Those relying on electric or natural gas also experienced higher bills. Regardless of the fuel source a home uses, everyone can conserve energy in similar ways. Often, a number of bad habits during winter exaggerate the costs of keeping a home warm.
- Keep the lights off: Not only does it become colder in the winter, it also gets darker. Homeowners should keep lights off in unoccupied rooms, including closets, garages and offices. This also goes for shutting down TVs, computers and other electronics that aren’t in use.
- Use a programmable thermostat: When no one is home, keeping a house at 74 degrees is no more beneficial than keeping it at 58. For those who don’t want to come home to a cold house, though, a programmable thermostat is the answer. A program will automatically raise the temperature just before family members arrive home, saving energy without sacrificing comfort.
- Lock in service when propane prices are low: In most cases, it’s best to lock in a yearly rate in mid-summer, when demand is low. Technically, an energy customer could come out behind on the very off chance that propane prices fall later in the season. However, this is rare and purchasing before blizzards hit is a wallet saver if propane prices nearly triple in January – which they did in 2014, according to The Air Conditioning, Heating and Refrigeration News.
- Dress for the weather: It’s not practical to wear shorts and a t-shirt in the middle of winter – even inside. Sweaters and thick socks allow homeowners to keep their thermostat setting low while still staying comfortable. Family members should also wear flannel pajamas to bed and grab extra blankets, so the temperature can be lowered even further when everyone is sleeping.
- Apply plastic over windows: According to Popular Mechanics, using clear plastic insulation kits for windows and patio doors can save up to $17 a window during the heating season in some climates.
- Control Humidity: A whole-home humidifier can also help homeowners stay cozy and energy conscious this winter. People feel more comfortable at lower temperatures when indoor relative humidity is under control.
While rising propane prices and energy bills will become frustrating this winter, homeowners don’t need to put their bank accounts at the mercy of the weather. With some small sacrifices, new technologies and good habits, families can realize real savings without reducing their comfort in the home.