Lower temps mean higher heating bills, how to keep energy costs down

Keeping your house warm during the colder months isn’t cheap, and if the fall weather is any indication of what’s to come this winter will be cold and long. That’s why it’s important to know about the small adjustments you can make to save on your home’s energy usage and bill.

First, set your thermostat to 68 degrees when you’re home and 55 when you’re away or sleeping. That might sound a little chilly, but it will bring you big savings. Experts at Madison Gas and Electric tell News 3 Now that when you lower the thermostat by one degree you save one percent on your bill. The average heating bill last year was about $450, according to MGE. That’s if you use natural gas. It can be much higher if you are heating your home with electricity.

If you are cash-strapped MGE offers something called the Energy Assistance Program which is income-based. It not only helps cover the cost of paying your heating bills but if you qualify for that program, the group Project Home will come and winterize your house, helping you with further savings down the road.

“There’s, like, 12,000 people in our community that aren’t taking advantage of it that could. We are trying to get that info out in the community and share that, because we really want people to be able to participate,” Lisa Samson, residential services manager at MGE, said.

Samson also recommends MGE’s budget plan option. While it won’t reduce the cost of your bill, it averages the amount so you will pay a fixed amount each month. Samson also recommends using an electric blanket instead of a space heater.

“If you’re cold and you have your thermostat set down, put on an electric blanket because then you’re heating your person, instead of a whole room and an electric blanket will use a fraction of the energy,” Samson said.

It’s also important to be aware of something called phantom energy. Reducing this can help lower your bill, too.

“What that means is things like your TV or anything that uses a remote control is waiting to be turned on, so that standby power waiting to be turned on is sipping electricity all day long,” Samson said. “If you look at a pie chart of all of your energy use, phantom energy is about 6 percent, so it’s pretty significant.”

So, how do you reduce phantom energy? Simply get a power strip for your appliances and other devices and shut it off when you’re not in need of your electronics.

A few other quick tips: Set your freezer to 5 degrees and your fridge to 38 degrees, so your appliances don’t have to work so hard to maintain the temperature. Also, be sure to cover any drafty windows with plastic and install weather stripping around doors.

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