With winter only two months away, you’ll likely turn up your heater soon to stay warm. We all want to avoid being cold in our own homes, but excessive energy consumption is increasingly common in December and January.

According to Connect 4 Climate, current household averages show that a home’s cooling/heating system and water heater will account for more than 50 percent of the total energy consumption. When you factor in winter temperatures, that percentage tends to increase a significant amount.

Luckily there are steps you can take to keep your energy bill low and stay warm at the same time. Throughout this article, you’ll come across big steps as well as small ones that will help ensure your home’s energy consumption stays efficient during the winter time. The first step you should take is to conduct a home energy audit.

A home energy audit entails a full scale inspection from a professional. They’ll inspect the outside and inside of your home, checking for various things such as air leaks, window condensation, insulation type, etc. This type of audit will give you a complete rundown of how your home operates. The results you’ll get will be well worth whatever you spend on the audit. For more information on home energy audits, check out our blog Conducting a home energy audit.

Besides conducting a home energy audit, there are two other big steps you can take to improve your home’s energy efficiency:

  • Upgrade your HVAC system.
  • Repair any cracks or leaks around your windows.

If you haven’t done so yet, you should upgrade your current appliances to ENERGY STAR labeled ones. ENERGY STAR appliances typically use at least 15 percent less energy than non-qualified models.

How an upgraded HVAC system will help come winter time.

Heat efficiency needs to be a priority of yours when December rolls around. Most homes are heated with either furnaces or boilers. Your furnace will heat air and distribute it throughout your home, while your boiler will heat water to produce steam or hot water. Radiators or coils will distribute then distribute the hear in these forms. Each one’s efficiency is measured in annual fuel utilization efficiency (AFUE).

Your goal should be to have a system AFUE of over 90 percent. This means that 90 percent of the energy which becomes heat is used for the home, while the other 10 percent escapes. Therefore, the higher the percentage, the more efficient your system is.

Now if you’re able to upgrade your furnace to a newer, more efficient model, great. If not, there are ways you can maintain the heat from your current furnace throughout the winter.

One way to improve the efficiency of your furnace is to upgrade and monitor your thermostat.

Did you notice the bold in the last statement? We did it on purpose. Your thermostat is a major proponent that will help you keep your home energy efficient during winter. The first step is to see if it’s within your budget to upgrade the current one you have for a smart model. If a new one is not, then you’ll just need to monitor your current thermostat a bit more.

Your daily goal should be to turn your thermostat back 7˚ to 10˚F for eight hours a day from its normal setting. This means that during winter, your thermostat should not keep your furnace heating your home throughout the entire day. On the contrary, your thermostat setting should be relatively cold when you’re home and even colder when you’re not home. You want to try and obtain a very small difference between your home’s temperature and that of outside.

You’ll not only want to maintain your thermostat, but you’ll also want to inspect and change your furnace filter. Failure to do so will result in an inefficient heating system. So make sure you check out the condition of your filter at least once a month.

You obviously want to keep the warm air from your furnace inside, which is why windows play a critical role in keeping your home energy efficient during winter.

Why you need to repair cracks around your home.

Window cracks are very common among households. These cracks – regardless of how small – provide an outlet for the warm air to escape.

One way to fix this problem is to install brand new windows. But that can cost you a pretty penny. Luckily, there are other ways you can improve the condition of your windows.

Using caulk, weatherstrips, and the addition of clear plastic sheeting are three easy and effective ways to reduce any air leaks. Add clear plastic sheeting to increase the insulation of your home. Caulk, on the other hand, can be used to seal cracks on the non-movable parts of your windows, while weatherstripping can be used on the window’s movable parts. Utilize these tactics to add insulation that will help keep your warm air inside. Once you have those cracks and leaks sealed up, make sure your windows remain locked. Sealing your windows keeps them pushed together, which helps stop air from seeping out.

There are also some smaller steps you can incorporate daily that will provide dividends in the long run.

Small scale steps that can make a big difference.

Just because some steps don’t require money or some sort of major project, doesn’t mean that they won’t make an impact. The goal is to combine major upgrades with daily routines to yield maximum efficiency during the winter. These daily routines include:

  • Keep curtains open when the sun is shining through them.
  • Limit excess electronic usage.
  • Turn down your water heater when you head out for the holidays.

Keep your curtains open during a sunny day to help warm up your home naturally, as opposed to leaving the entire burden on your furnace. Even in the harshest of winters the sun still shines throughout the day – as long as it’s not overcast. Take advantage of this sunshine - it’s an easy way to warm up your home while enjoying the outdoor views.

Limiting electronic usage is a tricky one, especially if you live with others. Unfortunately winter brings shorter days and colder weather, which means more time spent indoors. The extra time spent inside typically leads to higher electronic usage. To combat this, turn off the TV and pick up a book instead.

The many holidays during the winter means that you might leave town for a bit to go see family. If that’s the case this year, make sure you lower your water heater to its lowest level and turn off your HVAC system.

Before you know it, winter in the U.S. will begin on Friday, December 21. It’s important to implement the steps listed throughout this article immediately. By preparing in advance, you’ll end up saving more energy and money, which will lead to a more fruitful holiday season this year.