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Winter can be a stressful time—especially if you are one of the many people who anticipates a spike in your utility bills during the colder months. Historically speaking, it's not unusual for many people to see higher utility bills in the winter as a result of staying indoors more, turning on the lights earlier, poor insulation, and cranking up the thermostat.

However, recent developments might cause an even bigger spike in heating and electric bills than people are used to seeing. For example, the COVID-19 pandemic has forced many people to spend even more time at home than they would otherwise. Further, inflation trends have prompted the government to warn households to expect increases in their heating bills of up to 54%.

Fortunately, for those willing to put in the work, there are steps you can take to weatherize your home, cut back on energy use and, in doing so, reduce your electricity bill:

  • Make maintenance a routine. As it turns out, the "if it ain't broke, don't fix it" approach might actually be costing you money. Things like dirty furnace filters can reduce the efficiency of your HVAC system, causing it to use more electricity and drive your heating bill up.
  • Check for heat loss. Most people would probably be shocked to find out how much heat they lose from unexpected places. To mitigate your heat loss, consider sealing around your doors and windows, insulating your water heater and pipes, and checking for drafts around your outlets and vents.
  • Get smart about your thermostat. If you keep your thermostat turned up around the clock, you may be missing out on valuable opportunities to reduce your electricity bill. If you're able, throw an extra blanket on the bed and turn the heater down by a couple of degrees overnight. Alternatively, consider investing in a smart thermostat that you can program or control remotely from your smartphone. Many of these devices have features that allow you to turn your heat down while you're out of the house, or during set hours (such as while you're at work).
  • Adjust your habits. Day-to-day activities consume a surprising amount of energy. Consider the ways that you can adjust your heat usage by making small changes to your daily routine. For example, you might wash your laundry on cold rather than hot, or hang it to air-dry rather than using the dryer. You might also start reducing your showers to every other day and only running the dishwasher when it's full.

If you're feeling anxious about your utility bill this winter, it may be time to get help with the weatherization process. Spectrum Community Services is committed to improving the quality of life for low-income families, seniors, and individuals in Alameda County. Through financial assistance, and services, our goal is to support community members in building healthy, safe, and independent lives. Visit our website for more information on our senior meals program or to download a copy or our energy assistance application.