Fields: A few tips to help save on monthly heating bills – LubbockOnline.com

While West Texas is a great place to live, our weather can run hot and cold. From suffocating heat to freezing cold, it is hard to beat our region’s contrasts.
Since we entered a run of frigid conditions recently, now is a good time to think about ways to keep our heating bills to a minimum while staying as comfortable as possible. Even though there are always capital-intensive options, there are also common-sense measures anyone can take to get warm without paying through the nose. Here are a few:
• Humidity: All the experts tell us to lower our thermostats, but seem to lack advice on making it bearable. Even though I am not an authority, I have one idea. Considering that 100 degrees in arid Lubbock is generally more comfortable than 90 degrees in the tropics, it makes sense to think that dry environments are cooler. In other words, the dry conditions we experience in winter tend to aggravate the chill. Since dry wintry air wicks away the moisture on your skin and makes you feel cooler, adding humidity to the environment can help you feel warmer even at lower temperatures. On top of comfort, raising your home’s humidity also reduces the spread of cold and flu viruses. To achieve this, buy a humidifier and use it. Despite the fact that humidifiers use energy, the savings in heating costs should more than offset this.
• Dryer vent: Speaking of humidity, use your electric dryer’s exhaust to elevate it and get a lot of warmth thrown in! You will be pleasantly surprised by how much heat dryer exhaust can provide. In our house, we try to time our laundry to coincide with cold spells. There are different brands of diverters to do this and they are easy to install. I use a Deflect-O EX12 Dryer Diverter because it has a flat back and is easiest to mount against a wall. Before installing, get 2 screw down metal clamps as the plastic ones that come with the diverter will break at installation. This diverter can be bought at many online merchants. For a video about this product, go here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l9v5TWzvJPQ.
• Programmable thermostat: If you don’t have one, get a programmable thermostat. It will save at least 10% on your energy bill and enhance your comfort level. I rate the programmable thermostat I bought 22 years ago as some of the best money I have spent. My only regret is I didn’t do it sooner. As a programmable thermostat will last for awhile, do your homework so you get a thermostat that best matches your needs.
• Electric blanket: Once you have acquired a programmable thermostat, you can lower evening temperatures for when you sleep. To get the best of both worlds, an electric blanket is a cost-effective way to stay toasty even when your surroundings are freezing. The electricity used by a blanket is a fraction of the energy that would be used to keep your house warm. The only downside is that it isn’t portable.
• Seal up: To lower utility bills, many homeowners install additional insulation in their houses. In a whole lot of those cases, the issue of patching air leaks and cracks is unfortunately shortchanged. In my opinion, going through the nitty gritty of finding and sealing breaches is the absolute first thing anyone should do to get a handle on their utility bill. While I don’t have hard figures, my guess is that all the air leaks in a typical home would amount to a 1-2 foot diameter hole. Obviously, something like this is worth attacking but the subject is so detailed that I will have to cover it in a future article.
• Picking nits: In the interest of nitpicking, here are a couple of thoughts. In winter, if you thaw your meat in the refrigerator instead of on the counter, you allow the frozen item to help keep the refrigerator cold while allowing the food to “unfreeze”. In addition, you avoid using your home’s heating system to thaw an item and save the small amount of energy that would be involved in this process.  As an added bonus, you lessen the chance of spoiling your food by leaving it at room temperature for too long. Similar to thawing, try to avoid pouring boiling water down the drain during winter. Instead, allow the hot water to cool to room temperature before you get rid of it. By doing this, you are using the heat from the water to warm your home and save a slight (with an emphasis on slight) amount on your utility bill.
Overall, there are many ways to save energy that and one article can never do the subject justice. However, most of the ideas offered are fairly quick and inexpensive. Put them to work and get the best of both worlds by saving money and increasing your comfort level. Also, we at the Savvy Shopper want to hear your input.
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SEAN FIELDS is the A-J’s Savvy Shopper. Read his columns Sundays and Wednesdays. Email him at SavvyShopperLubbock@gmail.com, like his Facebook page at Facebook.com/LubbockSavvyShopper, or see previous columns and deals at lubbockonline.com/savvy-shopper.

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