After December eased up on heating bills in many parts of the country, January arrived only to remind us what winter really feels like and how much it costs to keep warm. There are a few things you can do now to save without climbing into a cold attic to add insulation or weatherstripping all your windows and doors, although those are smart moves. Here are some simple energy-saving suggestions from the experts at Consumer Reports and the Department of Energy.
Replace Your Busiest Lightbulbs
Replacing just five of the most frequently used lightbulbs in your house with energy-saving bulbs can save up to $75. Energy-wasting incandescents have mostly been phased out and replaced by CFLs and LEDs. LEDs save the most and with prices coming down, they’re a good bet. Some last so long that the LED you put in your baby’s room won’t need changing until she’s off to college. Here are some that impressed in our lightbulb tests.
60-watt replacement LEDs
- Feit Electric 60 Watt Replacement 9.5 W, $7 per bulb
- Sylvania 12-Watt 60W A19 Soft White, $20
- Samsung A19 60-Watt Warm White, $14
75-watt replacement LEDs
- EcoSmart 14-Watt (75W) A19 Soft White (Home Depot), $35
- Sylvania 14W A19 75W LED Dimmable, $32
- Philips 15-Watt (75W) A21 Soft White Dimmable 432161, $20
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Use Your Programmable Thermostat
Setting a programmable thermostat to match your schedule can save at least 10 percent per year on heating and cooling costs. Why crank up the heat at home if you’re at work? If you have zoned heating, turn it down in parts of the house you don’t use frequently such as guest rooms.
Programmable thermostats have gotten a lot easier to use since Consumer Reports first tested them years ago. The best thermostats in our tests get top marks on our ease-of-use tests, which include setup and routine adjustments. If you haven’t gotten the hang of yours, the best bet is to read the owner’s manual.
Replacing an old dial thermostat with a digital one is pretty straightforward. If you’re handy you can do it yourself. We test thermostats with remote access and thermostats without, which tend to cost less. Here are some to consider from out tests.
With remote access
- Honeywell RTH9590WF, $300
- American Standard AccuLink AZone950, $450
- Trane ComfortLink II Smart Control TZone950, $550
Without remote access
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Throw Open Your Curtains
Harness the heat of the sun by leaving your curtains open during the day to let the sunshine in and closing them at sundown. You may be surprised at how much heat you gain. Of course, it helps to have windows that aren’t drafty. Energy Star-qualified windows can lower your energy bills by 7 to 15 percent.
Consumer Reports tests windows for air and water leakage by subjecting them to heavy, wind-driven rain and winds of 25 and 50 mph at outdoor temperatures of 0°F and 70°F. When you replace your windows, match them to the weather in your area. Here are some top choices from our window tests.
Windows with wooden frames
- Andersen 400 Series, $310 per 3x5 window
- Pella ProLine 450 Series, $300
- Weather Shield EnduraShield, $430
Windows with vinyl frames
- Simonton Pro-Finish Contractor, $260
- Reliabilt 3900 Series (Lowe's), $280
- American Craftsman by Andersen 70 Series (Home Depot), $170
Keep Air Flowing Through the Furnace Filter
If you have a forced-air heating and cooling system, keep it in tip-top shape by checking your furnace filter monthly and replacing it every three months or sooner. Simply slip out the old filter and slide in the replacement. The recommended filters from our tests did best at filtering dust and pollen without impeding the airflow. Here are the top three, but before you buy check your owner's manual for the right fit.
- Lennox Healthy Climate CarbonClean 16, $100
- Filtrete Healthy Living Ultra Allergen 4 MPR1550, $29
- Carrier EZ Flex Filter Cabinet, $64
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Replace Broken Appliances With Energy Star Models
Okay, replacing an appliance isn’t simple or cheap but if you have a refrigerator or washer that’s on the fritz and it’s more than a decade old, a new Energy Star model will run much more efficiently. Since appliances account for 20 percent of your electric bill it’s smart to take advantage of energy-saving innovations when replacing your kitchen and laundry appliances.
Energy Star appliances use 10 to 15 percent less energy and water than standard models. You can find Energy Star appliances on our lists of recommended refrigerators, freezers, dishwashers, and washing machines as well as estimates of how much each model costs to run annually.
This article originally appeared on Consumer Reports. Consumer Reports has no relationship with any advertisers on this website.