Powering Life: How to stay warm while keeping your bills cool

Here are some tips to help lower your energy consumption and keep more money in your pocket.

Ed. note: This is the first of a new monthly column from the energy efficiency experts at Snohomish County PUD. If you have questions about the column, email ce@snopud.com or call 425-783-1700.

By Snohomish County PUD

This is the time of year we at Snohomish County PUD start to hear from customers concerned about higher-than-usual bills. The reason: colder temperatures, shorter days and longer hours spent indoors lead to higher-than-usual electricity use, especially in electrically heated homes.

The PUD’s rates are built on a base kilowat hour charge, so increased consumption drives up bills. In fact, a typical February bill can be double (or more!) compared to a July bill.

But, you say, you still want to watch “The Masked Singer” while keeping your home from becoming an ice box. We hear you! Here are some simple and inexpensive tips to lower your energy consumption and keep money in your pocket.

Fill out a Home Energy Profile. Over at snopud.com, we have a quick and easy survey that can highlight easy wins to save energy in your home. It takes about 5 minutes to complete. The Home Energy Profile will ask questions related to your home’s energy usage to help you discover your potential savings. To fill out a Home Energy Profile, visit snopud.com/energyprofile.

Check filters. It’s something that gets overlooked every winter, but dirty air filters can make furnaces work harder for less output. Replace air filters every three months in the heating season and you’ll not only improve air quality, but you’ll save energy too. Another quick tip: Owners of a Nest, ecobee or other smart thermostat can set alarms to remind them to replace air filters.

Zoned heating and lighting. In the winter, heating is the real villain. One simple way to reduce energy usage is zone heating, or just heating occupied rooms. If you have existing baseboard or wall heating, turn down the thermostats in the unused rooms and close the door. As for lighting, the comprehensive adoption of LED bulbs has made lighting less impactful to customers’ bills, but still, if you’re not in a room, turn off the light.

Get smart. Installing a programmable or smart thermostat makes it easier to be sure that your home is heated efficiently. A Nest, ecobee or other smart thermostat can automatically adjust the temperature based on schedule and other settings that you can create. Right now, PUD customers with electric heat can get a $75 prepaid VISA card when they purchase and install a qualified smart thermostat. Visit snopud.com/thermostats for details.

Keep the cold air out. A leaky home can mean an extra $20-$30 each bill cycle in the winter. Adding or repairing the weather stripping on your windows and doors can significantly reduce heat loss and drafts. Grab a tube of caulk and some weather stripping from your local hardware store and fill in any gaps you find in siding, around windows and doors.

Go ducted. If you’re interested in saving some real money, now is the perfect time to swap out your old forced-air electric furnace for a new energy efficient heat pump. The PUD is offering limited-time an enhanced rebate when you install an eligible ducted heat pump before March 31, giving customers an extra $500 off. Heat pumps can reduce heating costs by up to 50 percent and provide cooling in the summer. For details, visit snopud.com/heating.

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