Energy saving tips for seniors for WinterWith rising electric, coal and natural gas prices, people everywhere will be facing higher bills this winter. Seniors, however, face a tough road when their fixed income needs to go more towards their energy bills. There are several things that seniors and caregivers can do inside and outside the home to help prepare for cold months and keep energy costs down.
- Turn off televisions, appliances, lights and other electronics when they are not in use. Use the lights you need for safety such as on a walkway, and try not to leave extra lights on.
- Use low watt bulbs in non-critical areas. Areas for reading, computers, etc., require good quality lighting due to the nature of tasks being performed in those areas.
- Heating/cooling system maintenance. Maintenance your heating/cooling system cleaned before it becomes cold. Make sure it is good working order. (You also may want to consider this before extreme heat in the summer months.) Don’t forget to check your outside air unit to make sure there are no problems. Keep the area free of debris for best results. Change your air filters regularly. Have your duct work inspected. Make sure all vents and registers are cleaned and free of blockage. Replace your furnace, if necessary, and purchase an energy efficient unit (Look for high AnnualFuel Utilization Efficiency ratings. Look for appliances labeled with Energy Star®).
- Weather strip, seal or caulk around windows and doorways to keep cold air out and warm air in. You also may want to use window and door draft stoppers or plastic/transparent film over windows for extra insulation. Replace windows when needed with Energy Star windows. The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) reports that replacing single-pane windows with Energy Star windows could save up to $465 in annual energy bills (varies according to climate). You also can install storm windows that the DOE reports can reduce heat loss by up to 50%.
- Programmable thermostats can be used to lower heat when you are not at home.
- Keep thermostats free and clear. Pay close attention to the windows and doors around your thermostat. Make sure they all are closed tightly and insulated well. These can effect how often your heat turns on and off. Keep all heat sources, including lamps, ovens and other appliances, away from your thermostat. These also can effect how often your heat turns on and off.
- Fireplaces: Keep the fireplace damper closed when not in use. Make sure the screen is clean and free of any blockage from previous use. Have your chimney cleaned.
- Reduce hot water use. Use cold water in your washing machine or dishwasher, if possible. Wash only full loads. Reduce hot water for shower use or shorten your shower time. Reduce the amount of baths. Turn off hot water when brushing your teeth or shaving. You also can wrap your water heater with insulation (you can purchase “jackets” at many hardware stores). Replace a water heater, if necessary, and make sure to purchase an energy efficient unit.
- Lower the thermostat on your water heater.
- Reduce oven use when possible. Microwaves create less heat with a shorter cooking time.
- Laundry: Dry loads of clothes one after another to reduce heat loss. Clean lint filter after every load to maximize efficiency. Make sure dryer vent is clear.
- Seal any cracks, gaps or openings around pipes and wiring as well as in floors and walls.
- Add insulation to your attic, crawl space and other exterior areas.
- Radiators and heaters: Make sure these are not blocked by furniture, curtains or other items. Make sure warm-air registers, heaters and radiators are clean.
- Turn off ventilation fans within 20 minutes after cooking or bathing in order to maintain warm air in the room.
- Unplug equipment that is not in use.
- Turn down the thermostat a few degrees. Dress warmer and place blankets in convenient locations.
- Close curtains/drapes when the sun goes down or when you are not home to retain heat.
Although some of these tips you can do your self, it is a good idea to speak with a reputable professional that is qualified to address your needs when making changes, upgrades or fixes to your home this winter season.
1 U.S. Department of Energy. “Heating and Cooling,” 2008.
2 Flex Your Power. 2008.
3 Sierra Club. “Energy Saving Tips.”