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Haley Zaremba

Haley Zaremba

Haley Zaremba is a writer and journalist based in Mexico City. She has extensive experience writing and editing environmental features, travel pieces, local news in the…

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The Oilprice Guide To Cutting Energy Costs This Winter

  • Energy bills are soaring for many this winter.
  • During chilly winter nights, resist the urge to crank up the heat.
  • Insulation may be more affordable than you think.

The global energy crisis is just getting started. The International Energy Agency (IEA), not one for hyperbole, announced in its annual energy outlook that we’re in the midst of a “global energy crisis of unprecedented depth and complexity,” and that “there is no going back to the way things were” before Russia’s illegal invasion of Ukraine and the resulting restructuring of global energy trade. In the short term, this is a nasty bit of news for consumers, who can expect market volatility to hit them hard at the thermostat this winter. That’s why we’ve put together a little guide to conserving energy this winter so that your bills don’t break the bank.

  • Program your thermostat for maximum efficiency

You can now settle that fight over the family thermostat, because we’ve got the exact temperatures you’ll need to keep your family warm and healthy without paying out the nose for heating. According to the United States Department of Energy (DOE), your house should be 68 degrees Fahrenheit (20 degrees Celsius) in the winter. During chilly winter nights, resist the urge to crank up the heat – according to the experts you should actually turn the heat down even further. During sleep, our body temperature naturally drops. Ideal sleeping temperatures are somewhere between 60 and 67 degrees. Furthermore, for maximum energy efficiency, plan to designate 8 hours a day (such as when you leave to go to work) to turn your thermostat down by 7 to 10 degrees. According to the Energy Information Administration (EIA), this habit alone will cut your annual energy expenditures by up to 10%. Make sure you’re letting the sun in during the day and closing the drapes at night to make the most of your heating. 

  • Insulate, insulate, insulate 

Your doors and windows can leak out more heat than you might think possible. While there are all kinds of expensive fixes you can do to stop this (installing double-pane windows, getting your walls re-insulated, etc.), there are also lots of affordable DIY approaches that make a big difference. One quick trip to the hardware store will have you installing weatherstripping, door sweeps, draft stoppers, and closing up your fireplace chimney when not in use. 

  • Help your appliances help you

Giving your heating system a check-up now and then will help ensure that your system is clean and ready to run efficiently, and will increase its lifespan. You should also make sure that you’re not blocking any vents with furniture or other obstacles, as this will make your system work harder, racking up your energy bill without making your house any warmer. 

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Your hot water heater and pipes can also be major culprits of energy waste. Turning down the heat on your hot water heater can be a major help – 120 degrees Fahrenheit is usually plenty for a family. You can increase the efficiency even further by getting your hot water heater a blanket and insulating your pipes. 

To further cut back on energy use, make sure you’re only using your washer and dryer for full loads, unplug appliances when not in use, and install LED lightbulbs. 

  • Plan accordingly for holiday dinner

There are a number of tricks you can employ in the kitchen to whip up a festive feast without maxing out your gas bill. First, match your cooking tools to the size of your meal. First, get everything ready far before you fire up any burners or appliances. Mise en place, people! Do all of your washing, chopping, and prep work in advance, and don’t even think about pre-heating that oven until you’re actually ready to use it. Likewise, don’t fire up the whole oven where the toaster oven will do. Alternatively, don’t rotate lots of dishes through the toaster oven if you could fit them all in the oven in one go. Start experimenting with one-pot recipes in the slow cooker and the instant pot so you’re not using multiple burners or appliances. And once you’ve got something heated, keep it heated! Resist the urge to open the oven door and keep those pot lids on tight. Every time you open your oven door, the heat drops at least 25 degrees. 

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Choosing the right cooking vessel is key. Even using a small pan on a big burner can be a huge waste of energy. Compact Appliance reports that using a six-inch pan on an eight-inch electric burner can waste up to a whopping 40% of the heat produced. Using appropriately sized pans (without warped bottoms!) will distribute heat efficiently and effectively. Keeping your burners and cooking surfaces clean will also do wonders for heating efficiency. Furthermore, not all pans are created equal. Using glass or ceramic in the oven can allow you to decrease the temperature of the oven by an impressive margin – about 25 degrees Farenheit – without slowing down your cooking times. Copper pans are especially heat efficient, but can be pretty pricey, so if you don’t already have a set it may defeat the penny-pinching purposes of this listicle. 

Bonus tip: the governor of Tokyo told her citizens to dress like Emmanuel Macron and wear a turtleneck. "They're warm and overall energy consumption is reduced so we can link it to lowering CO2 emissions," she said.

By Haley Zaremba for Oilprice.com

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