Cooler temperatures have arrived and the days are shorter, which means Coloradans may start to use more energy to keep their homes comfortable and day-to-day activities running.
Several factors impacting utilities across the U.S, are pointing to higher prices for natural gas this winter. These include lower inventory levels of gas in storage, higher summertime use to generate electricity for cooling, and interrupted offshore gas production due to Hurricane Ida.
We recognize the impact this will have on all our Colorado customers, which is why we’re here to help customers get winter-ready.
Making your home more energy efficient is easier and less expensive than you might think and it has a big impact on your bills. Did you know energy usage is the single largest portion of your energy bill and temperature is one of the biggest factors in increased usage? Together with simple behavior changes to cut back on energy waste, weatherization and energy efficiency can help you save energy and money this fall and winter.
The first step to making your home more energy efficient is knowing what simple fixes it needs. Here are a few spot tests to help detect where you may be losing the most energy:
The Flashlight Test: Have someone go outside at night and shine a flashlight at and around doorways, while you stay inside; you’ll see the light shining through any cracks or openings that need to be resealed.
The Tissue Test: Hang a piece of tissue on a clothes hanger next to a closed window. If the tissue is moving, there’s a leak from your window seals.
The Money Test: Slip a quarter underneath a doorway. If it fits, heat is escaping. To test windows, place a dollar bill across the weather-stripping on a window, close the window, and pull out the bill. If it comes out easily, the window doesn’t have a tight enough seal.
After identifying the areas of your home that may need help, here are a few inexpensive DIY weatherization tips to reduce wasted energy and help you save on monthly energy bills:
Seal cracks with caulk. Wherever you discovered a leak, apply new caulk to seal cracks and joints, keeping drafts and moisture out of your home. And remember, leaks aren’t just found around windows and doors; consider every other area that may leak air, including where wood siding meets the concrete foundation.
Weather-strip windows and doors. In addition to caulking cracks, consider installing a foam-backed tape around windows and doors to keep heat inside. Windows and doors are important areas to make energy efficiency upgrades, as 7% to 12% of a building’s heating and cooling loss occurs around these areas.
Check your furnace. Conduct regular maintenance on your furnace, like cleaning your furnace filter monthly and replacing it every three months. We also encourage you to get a professional furnace check-up each year, to make sure your home’s largest energy user in the winter is running efficiently.
Upgrade your thermostat. According to the Department of Energy, you can save an estimated 10% a year on heating and cooling costs by using a programmable thermostat. Upgrading your thermostat to a programmable model with a heating schedule is a great way to save energy. Black Hills Energy offers a rebate on Energy Star certified smart thermostats to help cover the cost.
Saving energy and money also means making small changes to your routine, to use less energy at times of peak demand, typically between 2 and 6 p.m. For those working at home, there are also a few ways to conserve energy during and after your 9-5. For example, opening blinds for all south-facing windows is a great way to let the sun heat your home during the day, so that you can turn down the thermostat by a couple degrees. Remember to close your drapes or blinds at night, which will help insulate your home from any energy leaking from windows.
Black Hills Energy is committed to providing the safe, reliable energy that our communities need to thrive, regardless of the weather outside. If you’re not sure what energy efficiency projects are most needed for your home, consider a virtual home energy assessment. Trained professionals will provide recommendations for reducing your energy consumption and often will identify projects and rebates to help you save money. Black Hills Energy also offers an online assessment that provides customers with a free home energy kit with hot water blanket, faucet aerators, showerheads, weatherstripping and more.
For more energy-saving tips, energy efficiency program information and to apply for an energy audit and rebates, visit blackhillsenergy.com/winter-ready. And, if you’re struggling to pay your energy bill, reach out to our customer service team, who can help with billing options and energy assistance programs.
Amy Fiala is the energy efficiency program coordinator for Black Hills Energy.