9 Winter Energy-Saving Tips For a Cozy and Efficient Home

December 14, 2023

By Courtney Klosterman, Home Insights Expert at Hippo

Nothing beats stepping into a warm home after being outside in winter weather all day. Add a hot shower to the mix, and you have the perfect recipe for being cozy this season.

However, constantly cranking up the heat can be a fast track to high energy bills. According to ENERGY STAR, almost half of annual energy bills go to heating and cooling for the average American household. 

So, before you set the thermostat too high, check out these winter energy-saving tips to help keep your home toasty without breaking the bank.

Keep a Checklist Handy

Keeping a checklist handy on the fridge or your phone can help you remember what you can do to help the whole house stay mindful about keeping their energy usage down. Download our winter energy-saving tips checklist below to have a quick reference on hand.

1.   Lower the temperature on your thermostat

Why? The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) says you can save energy costs in the winter by setting your thermostat between 68°F and 70°F while you’re home and less when you’re away. The DOE also explains that heat loss happens more slowly when the temperature inside your house is low.

Effort required: Low

Steps to take:

  • Set your thermostat at a low setting that’s still comfortable for everyone in your home.
  • Keep your thermostat a few degrees lower than normal when you’re asleep or out of the house.
  • Ensure your thermostat is located in a high-traffic area inside your home and away from areas with temperature extremes (like near exterior doors) so it can accurately read the temperature. Depending on your thermostat, you can move it yourself or call an HVAC professional for help if needed.
  • Consider investing in a smart thermostat to set a schedule and more easily monitor your home’s energy usage.
  • Consider using small space heaters if you only need to heat a small part of your home.

2. Wear warm layers

Why? Our parents had a point when they told us to layer up! Throwing on your favorite sweater or using a throw blanket is an easy way to warm up before adjusting the thermostat.

If you’re in a particularly chilly area, strategically choosing your layers can keep you well-insulated and comfortable. First, you can start with a warm, moisture-wicking base layer (like long underwear), then throw on a comfy sweater and thick pants to help your body.

Effort required: Low

Steps to take:

  • Encourage everyone to dress warmly inside before increasing the temperature.
  • Store throw blankets in the living room and other areas where people hang out.
  • Use thick or heated bedding to stay warm while you sleep.
  • If you have pets, consider getting them a warm, heated bed and keeping them away from potentially drafty parts of your home.

3. Take advantage of natural heat

Why? Passive heating uses the sun’s natural heat to warm up your home. Methods range from opening the blinds during the day to let in heat to choosing building materials that can trap heat during the day and release it in the evening. 

Even if your home wasn’t intentionally built with passive solar design in mind, you can still use a few low-effort tricks to harness the sun’s heat.

Effort required: Low

Steps to take:

  • Open your curtains or blinds during the day to let in the natural heat from the sun.
  • Close curtains or blinds at night to help insulate heat. 
  • Invest in thermal insulated curtains to help further insulate windows.
  • Have ceiling fans rotate clockwise at a low speed to redistribute heat and prevent drafts. Doing so will pull cool air up and move warmer air throughout the room. 
  • Avoid planting evergreen trees south of your home since they can block out the sun during the winter.

4. Monitor energy usage for electronics

Why? The EIA found that televisions and related equipment, computers and related equipment, and other miscellaneous energy uses, including dishwashers and cooking equipment, make up 45.2% of residential energy consumption.

Spending more time indoors during the winter can mean more time (and energy) spent making hot chocolate and coffee, watching classic holiday movies, and cozying under an electric blanket. We’re not advising you to stop the holiday cheer—but there are a few ways you can keep energy usage for electronics down.

Effort required: Low

Steps to take:

  • Set electronics and appliances to low-power or power-saving mode to reduce energy consumption.
  • Turn electronics off when you’re not using them. If electronics need to be on constantly, set it to low-power mode (or similar) when you’re not using it.
  • Unplug devices when you’re away from home, especially when leaving for multiple days.
  • Plug small electronics into surge protectors or smart plugs to easily turn them off and on.

5. Upgrade lighting and light bulbs

Why? According to EIA, retail residential electricity prices in the United States grew 10.7% in 2022 and are projected another 4% growth in 2023. With these rising prices, additional lights, especially costly holiday strings of incandescent bulbs, will cause a clear increase in your electricity bill. Choosing LED holiday lights can save you up to 75% as they use a quarter of the energy incandescent lighting does. 

Even if you aren’t putting up holiday lights, swapping energy-efficient bulbs in your home’s regular lights can help you consume less electricity. LED lights can also last up to 25 times longer than regular incandescent bulbs.

Effort required: Low

Steps to take:

  • Turn off lights when you’re not using them. 
  • Replace light bulbs with energy-efficient LED or CFL light bulbs.
  • Invest in smart bulbs to put lights on a schedule, monitor usage, and easily adjust brightness.
  • Use energy-efficient holiday lights and follow the manufacturer’s guidelines when stringing multiple strands together.

6. Prioritize energy-efficient choices for large appliances

Why?  Large appliances, like washing machines and refrigerators, can consume a lot of energy. The EIA found that refrigerators and freezers were the fifth largest source of residential energy consumption in 2022.

Reducing your usage when possible, using power-saving (or similar) settings, and making energy-efficient upgrades are a few ways to keep electricity usage down with these appliances. For example, a household can save about $450 annually on energy bills when using ENERGY STAR products

Effort required: Low to medium

Steps to take:

  • Wash laundry in cold water and reduce the electricity needed to warm the water when possible.
  • Load appliances with full loads without overstuffing them to maximize energy usage. This includes large machines like washing machines and dishwashers. 
  • Keep the oven door closed while food is cooking. The heat loss can result in more energy needed to heat the oven.
  • Consider using smaller appliances or alternative options when possible to reduce energy consumption with large appliances. For example, you can use a slow cooker for some meals instead of the oven or airdry clothes instead of using the dryer.
  • When it’s time to replace your appliance, shop for energy-efficient ENERGY STAR products.

7. Seal up air leaks, like drafty windows and doors

Why? Doors, windows, and other openings in your home are all potential sources of heat loss—even when closed. According to the DOE, nearly one-third of your home’s heat energy is lost through windows.

Sealing air leaks (that can lead to heat loss) can help your home retain heat, thus keeping everyone comfortable and preventing your heater from working overtime. 

Effort required: Medium

Steps to take:

  • Do a visual air leak inspection to find apparent signs of leaks. This can include checking for gaps or cracks in existing caulking and weatherstripping or light shining around door and window frames.
  • Schedule a professional energy assessor, weatherization technician, or similar professional to do a full inspection for air leaks around the house if you suspect leaks in multiple areas of your home.
  • Weatherstrip doors and windows with noticeable drafts and replace old weatherstripping as needed.
  • Research DIY window insulation kits to use on your window. These kits can help insulate your windows while still letting in the sunshine.
  • Check the attic and basement for air leaks. You can use foam or caulk for small heat leaks, but you may need to call a professional to install or replace insulation for larger leaks.
  • Investigate other common spots for air leaks like light fixtures, outlets, air conditioning units, utility cupboards, and other areas with visible cracks or gaps.
  • Insulate pipes to lessen heat loss, help your water heat up faster, and help prevent burst pipes.
  • Keep fireplace dampers closed when you’re not using them to avoid inviting cold air. If you don’t plan to use your chimney this winter, seal the chimney flue.
  • Lay down rugs on non-carpeted floors to help insulate the floor.
  • Schedule a professional inspection if you notice cold air coming through your exhaust fans.

8. Inspect home heating systems

Why? The EIA found that space and water heating were among the top four largest categories for residential energy consumption in 2022.

Layering up and improving insulation can help keep you warm. But you’ll likely still need to use your HVAC system, chimney, water heater, and small space heaters to stay warm—especially in areas that need to prepare for blizzards and extreme cold temperatures. Regular maintenance on your home’s heating systems can help ensure they operate properly and efficiently.

Effort required: Medium to high

Steps to take:

  • Replace furnace and heat pump filters if you haven’t already in the past three months. This will keep them running efficiently and ensure they’re clean from pollutants like dust and pet dander.
  • Ensure furniture and curtains are not blocking vents and obstructing airflow.
  • Schedule a tune-up for your HVAC system if you haven’t had one this year or have issues. Common signs can include loud banging or clanking noises, a strong smell, or airflow that feels different than normal.
  • Arrange for a chimney cleaning if you haven’t already scheduled one this year or notice significant build-up.
  • Flush your hot water heater if you haven’t already this year to minimize sediment buildup and help it run more efficiently.
  • Consider if lowering your water heater temperature to 120ºF is safe for your household. Water heaters maintain a set temperature all day and continuously cycle on and off. Lowering the temperature can help save on heating bills.
  • Investigate if your water heater is a good candidate for insulation. If your water heater’s R-value is at least 24 (found on its label) or it feels hot when you touch it, it may benefit from insulation. Check with your utility company and local codes first to see if this is permitted and if your utility company can help with installation.

9. Do a home energy assessment

Why? A home energy assessment involves inspecting each room of your house to identify your home’s energy usage and ways to help your home run more efficiently. This is a great step to take if you want to identify the solutions that will impact your home most. You can do a simple DIY home energy assessment to find issues that are easy to spot.

You can also schedule a professional home energy assessment with an auditor who can thoroughly evaluate your home. Having an audit completed by a certified auditor is required for those who want to take advantage of tax credits. An auditor can also help you identify solutions for more complex issues, like if you need to replace the insulation throughout your home.

Effort required: High

Steps to take:

  • Schedule the inspection as early in the season as possible (or add it to your fall maintenance checklist) to avoid potential construction or renovation during the winter.
  • If you’re scheduling a professional audit, check your auditor’s credentials. You can find qualified auditors through the Residential Energy Services Network, your energy company, or the U.S. Department of Energy’s Home Energy Score Program.
  • Make a list of potential issues in your home that either you or your auditor can keep top of mind during the assessment. This can include rooms with drastically different temperatures or drafty windows and doors.
  • Get a copy of your energy bills to help identify relevant information for the audit. This can include peak usage time in your home, changes in usage between bills, and potential causes for spikes or dips (like if you’re housing relatives during the holidays or recently replaced old appliances).
  • Download an electricity app to monitor your household’s energy consumption.

Saving energy in the wintertime is a smart idea, but for year-round savings, energy efficiency can’t just stay a wintertime goal. Many of these tips can help you save money—and use less energy—all year. 

These tasks won’t take up too much of your valuable weekend or upcoming holiday time. Even if a project takes longer than expected, your effort can help keep your home running more efficiently in the long run.

12 Comments

  • Paula Peterson December 18, 2023 at 1:38 pm

    I love the tip about air leak inspection to find apparent signs of leaks this will really help me this winter.

  • gloria patterson December 21, 2023 at 3:06 pm

    This is a lot of good information that I had not though of before. I live in a apartment that has sliding windows. I figure out last year that air getting on one side. A trip to lowes and I got some small form pipe covers. I cut them down to size and split them so they would go over the track. WORKS great and I got extra and made some for neighbors

  • Barbara Cissell December 23, 2023 at 10:56 am

    Thanks for all the good tips

  • Jodi Hunter December 28, 2023 at 2:30 pm

    Thanks so much for this amazing tips.

  • molli December 28, 2023 at 5:06 pm

    my hous is older and gets very cold and drafty. i appreciate these tips.

  • Barrie December 30, 2023 at 10:15 pm

    A few years ago, we spent money to insulate and seal our house. It helped a lot but we still use energy saving ideas. You have some new ones I need to look into implementing!

  • Maria Egan January 15, 2024 at 4:52 pm

    We are having record cold, and I am wearing my layers. Time for an energy audit.

  • Anthony G January 27, 2024 at 8:28 am

    I’ve always wanted to do an energy assessment of my home but end up putting it off.

  • Ashley Parks January 28, 2024 at 10:34 pm

    This is great advice! We definitely need to seal up a lot of windows and doors to see if we can get our electric bill down. We definitely need to finish changing out light bulbs to more efficient ones.

  • Kyra Kwan February 1, 2024 at 2:21 pm

    All great tips to save money! A dollar saved is a dollar earned!

  • Colleen Debs February 5, 2024 at 9:14 pm

    I do do most of these tips. The only one that I need to do, is get a new freezer. I just have to wait and save for one.

  • Colleen Debs February 11, 2024 at 8:32 pm

    These are some great ideas. Thanks

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