heating.jpg While it may seem like you’re already doing enough to help the environment, there’s always a little room for improvement. Winter is the perfect season to revamp your green habits and enhance your efforts to save energy – and money! Here are 10 ways you can conserve more energy, reduce your bills and lessen the impact of your carbon footprint this season. 1. Invest in a programmable thermostat. There are several benefits to investing in a programmable thermostat, and the most obvious one is that you won’t have to concern yourself with using too much energy. Programmable thermostats know when your home needs to be heated, meaning you won’t be utilizing energy to keep an empty house warm while you’re away. Best of all, a programmable thermostat can save your family up to $180 in your energy bill each year. Many devices also allow you to program and manage your thermostat while you’re away via mobile device. 2. Conduct an energy audit. An energy audit may seem like an excessive step to take, but it can help you identify areas of your home that need improvement. During an energy audit, a professional takes a look at areas where heat and energy may be seeping out of your home – windows, doors and outlets are common areas. Additionally, he or she will take lifestyle factors into consideration, such as the average thermostat temperature and which rooms are used most frequently. After the energy audit, you’ll have a better idea of which areas you should seal or insulate to conserve energy and money. 3. Upgrade your windows. Your windows could be allowing cold air to flow easily into your house. Double-pane windows or energy efficient windows can help you reduce the amount of heat that you lose throughout the winter. Although upgrading your windows may be costly, it’s an investment that can pay off over time if you opt for insulated models. 4. Protect your windows. If you don’t have the money to invest in new windows, you may want to consider taking proactive measures to reduce the energy that may be leaving through their cracks. This means purchasing window film to conserve heat, or using weather stripping to provide further insulation. Keeping curtains and blinds closed during the winter can also reduce cold air from creeping into the home. 5. Invest in vinyl siding. If you can afford to make an upgrade to your home, you may want to consider new siding – specifically vinyl siding. Vinyl siding continues to grow in popularity among those who want to go green and improve their energy conservation. It’s low maintenance, long lasting, and it can qualify under Energy Star regulations. Additionally, vinyl siding has one of the highest returns on investment for remodeling projects. 6. Take advantage of the sun. While you may want to keep your blinds and curtains closed during the chilly winter nights, it’s important to remember that the sun is your friend! The U.S. Department of Energy states that you can allow a beneficial amount of warmth into your home by opening your window treatments during the sunny days of the winter. Once again, make it a point to seal any window cracks with weather stripping beforehand. This will ensure that you aren’t welcoming cold drafts into your home when you tie back your curtains. 7. Maintain your heating system. In addition to considering a thermostat upgrade, it’s worth taking a look at your heating system as a whole. While it may not need to be upgraded, it could benefit from a tune-up to ensure that it’s in working order. A faulty heating system can result in excessive energy use during the winter. If you are unsure of how to maintain your furnace or boiler, bring in a professional to look at it for you. He or she will be able to make sure everything is in working order for the entire winter. 8. Be mindful of your fireplace. Having a fireplace can be convenient during the winter, but it may let in cold air when you least expect it. Ideally, you should always keep the fireplace damper closed when a fire isn’t burning – this will prevent cold air from dropping down into your home. If you do not use your fireplace in general, keep the chimney flue plugged and sealed to improve your household’s energy conservation. 9. Keep your furnace clean. Many people are unaware that furnace filters should be cleaned once per month. Dirty filters can increase energy use, and they should be replaced if they become too soiled. If you do not know how to clean out your furnace or change your filter, consult a professional. 10. Change the direction of your ceiling fan. Using a ceiling fan in winter? Sounds crazy, right? The fact of the matter is that if you change the direction of your ceiling fan toward clockwise, you can push heat down to ground level and keep it within your home. When the fan is running counter-clockwise during the summer, it’s pushing hot air up toward the ceiling. While these 10 tips can help you change the way you save energy at home, they aren’t the only adjustments you can make to be a little greener. Getting into small habits, such as putting on socks or sweaters rather than cranking up the thermostat, can make a big difference. Investing in insulated curtains and area rugs can also provide a noticeable improvement to your home. If you’re willing to do some redecorating, you can dramatically increase the amount of energy you conserve during the winter months! Finally, try to remind your family that energy conservation during chilly weather is a team effort. Educate children on how they can help out with habits, such as only turning on the heat in the rooms they use. Leave sticky notes around the house, reminding family members of your green efforts as a whole. By getting everyone on the same page, you can make sure that you’re saving money and the environment this winter.