MADELEINE BRAND, host:
You will likely be spending more this winter to heat your home. The government projects that the average family will pay a little more than $1,100 to stay warm this winter. That's up 15 percent from a year ago.
Here to talk about saving money on your winter energy bill is Michelle Singletary. She's Day to Day's personal finance contributor. And, Michelle, you know, we've got to heat our homes. We can't just shiver and freeze to death. So, what can we do? What are you tips?
MICHELLE SINGLETARY: You know, there are a number of things that you can do. Let's start with how much water you use. About 15 percent of the average home energy bill goes to heating water, and this is according to the Alliance to Save Energy, which is a great website to get more tips. So, to save hot water, take five-minute showers instead of baths. Make sure that, when you wash your clothes, that the load is full. You know, like sometimes, you want to just throw in a couple of things. Wait until you have enough to fill the machine.
Another thing a lot of people sort of ignore is, make sure you seal all your windows and doors, so there's no heat that is escaping. And here's a thing that actually saved my marriage, a programmable thermostat. Get one if you don't have one. I'm the kind of person who loves a lot of heat. My husband is the energy conservationist, and so he's like, let's keep this heat bill down. ..TEXT: If you get this thermostat, you can adjust it so that, while you're asleep, or you're away from the house, you turn down the heat, and if you turn it back 10 to 15 degrees for eight hours, you can save about 10 percent a year on your heating bills.
BRAND: So, when people are out of the house all day long, you know, usually, they think, oh, when I return, I'll return to this cold and empty, frigid house, but really, it doesn't take that long for the heat to start working.
SINGLETARY: It doesn't, and listen, if you get a programmable thermostat, that'll take care of it. You can program it so that it turns on just before you are scheduled to get home, and you come home to a nice warm house. And then you program it so that, when it's time for you to go to bed, it cools down, so - and you're nice in your warm, comfy covers, and you get some nice footy socks or footy pajamas.
(Soundbite of laughter)
BRAND: So, daylight savings just ended, and so it's getting dark a lot earlier. That means we're turning on our lights earlier and for longer periods of time. How much is that costing us?
SINGLETARY: It costs quite a bit. You know, you've got to turn off the lights. In fact, I charge my children for every time I find their lights on when they leave for school a dollar, and I tell you, it has worked. They turn those lights off. They got tired of paying me money. Also, what you can do is to replace those 75-watt bulbs with the compact fluorescent bulbs. You can use two thirds less energy, and they last up to 10 times longer, and that can save you about $190 over the life of those bulbs.
BRAND: But, you know, the holidays are right around the corner, Michelle, and people like to put up lights.
SINGLETARY: They do, and I have some neighbors who keep their lights on all night long, I mean, starting in early December. Leaving lights on 24 hours will quadruple your energy costs. So, instead of leaving them on for so long, just leave them on for some part of the evening.
And listen, a lot of the lights now come so that you can program them to shut off at a certain period. So, you know, keep them on when people are driving home, and you want them to see your house nicely lit. And then, after nine or 10 o'clock, cut them off so that you can save energy and save yourself some money.
BRAND: Michelle Singletary is Day to Day's personal finance contributor, and she writes the Color Of Money column for the Washington Post. If you have a question for Michelle, go to npr.org/daytoday. Click on contact us, and please put Michelle in the subject line. Michelle, thank you.
SINGLETARY: You're welcome.
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