How to stay warm and save energy in Alabama’s record cold

How to stay warm and save energy in Alabama’s record cold
How you use ceiling fans and fireplaces in the winter can determine your energy efficiency. (iStock)

Near record lows are expected across Alabama on Tuesday night. The National Weather Service in Birmingham predicts a low of 22 in the Magic City, with even colder air as you travel northwest.
A freeze warning remains in effect from 5 p.m. Tuesday to 10 a.m. Wednesday for most of central Alabama.

Despite the frigid air, there are some steps you can take to stay warm while saving energy.

Lower the thermostat while you sleep

Programmable and smart thermostats give you better control over when your heat and air conditioning are on. (iStock)
Programmable and smart thermostats give you better control over when your heat and air conditioning are on. (iStock)

A tried-and-true practice to save energy during colder months is lowering your thermostat while you sleep. According to the Department of Energy, going easier on your heating system during the coldest part of the day can save about 10 percent on heating costs. Consider throwing an extra blanket on the bed or investing in an electric blanket to keep you warm and comfortable while you sleep.

Take advantage of natural heat

Even during the winter months, Alabama often has plenty of sunshine. That winter sun can be a source of warmth for your home. During the day, the U.S. Department of Energy recommends opening blinds and drapes, typically on the sunny, south side of your home, to let the sunlight and its warmth come through. Close the drapes at night to provide insulation when the sun goes down.

If you don’t use it, don’t heat it

If you have rooms in your home that you rarely use, such as a guest room, consider closing off the vents in that space to save on energy. According to U.S. News & World Report, by lowering the thermostat and directing the flow of conditioned air to the spaces where you need it, you can reduce your energy bill.

Caulking helps keep warm air in and cold air out in the winter. (iStock)
Caulking helps keep warm air in and cold air out in the winter. (iStock)

Find and seal leaks

Ensure your home is as airtight as possible by finding and sealing leaks around plumbing penetrations, chimneys and unfinished spaces behind kitchen cabinets and closets. The Department of Energy offers guidelines on detecting air leaks and selecting and applying the appropriate caulk and weatherstripping. Properly sealing your home will help ensure you are keeping the warm air in and cold air out.

Use your ceiling fan

Ceiling fans are typically associated with warmer months, but your ceiling fan can be a great source for controlling airflow during the winter. Make sure your ceiling fans are rotating clockwise in the winter. This will help circulate warmer air near the ceiling back into the room.

Keeping clean filters in place helps your system work more efficiently. (iStock)
Keeping clean filters in place helps your system work more efficiently. (iStock)

Quick tips to save even more

  • Don’t allow your attached garage to be an energy drain. Leave the garage door down as much as possible because a warmer garage will save energy.
  • Ensure your vents are free from unintentional obstructions. Your heating system works harder if your vents and air registers are blocked by rugs, furniture or drapes. Keep them clear to allow air to flow freely.
  • Consider covering bare floors with an area rug for added insulation.
  • Don’t make your refrigerator work too hard. The coils should be cleaned every year.
  • Change your air filters monthly. Dirty filters cause poor air circulation and make your system work harder. Remember, you don’t pay for the energy you don’t use.
  • Turn down the temperature of your water heater to the warm setting (120 degrees). You will not only save energy but you might avoid scalding your hands. According to the Department of Energy, reducing the temperature from 140 degrees to 120 degrees can save the average home more than $400 a year.
  • Use light-emitting diode – or “LED” – holiday light strings to reduce the cost of decorating your home for the holidays.
  • If you have a fireplace, make sure to keep the damper closed unless a fire is burning. Keeping the damper open is like keeping a window open during the winter.

For more information about saving energy – winter, summer or any season, visit alabamapower.com.

Related Stories