9 tips to conserve energy use during Birmingham sweater weather!

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A content producer from Bham Now on a couch.
Who needs a space heater when you have a cat? Photo via Matthew Niblett for Bham Now.

I thought moving to Birmingham would be all fun and games, and it was, until I realized bills were involved. Who knew? That ended my daily coffee stops on the way to work pretty quick.

Luckily, I chatted with Jim Goolsby from Alabama Power to learn how I can conserve energy use when temps start to drop. I’m fully prepared for my power bill next month. Once I get my online shopping under control, I’ll be prepared for the credit card one too.

1. Change HVAC filters monthly.

It’s true with wine and it’s true with filters, expensive does not always mean better. In the case of filters, expensive never means better—a cheaper option works just as well as a more expensive one.

Coming from someone who is always too late on her oil change, it’s tough for me to remember to do this once a month. Fortunately, Jim told me there are a few ways to remember to change your filter every month:

  • Change it every time you receive your power bill (easy)
  • Get an air filter subscription. I know, it’s not as fun as a subscription to Disney +, but this way the work is done for you.

2.Seal air leaks around your windows and doors.

Sealing air leaks around a window.
There are so many sneaky ways energy likes to slip out of your home, but sealing leaks around your window is a cost efficient and fast way to stop it. Photo via Alabama Power’s website.

There are some beautiful historic homes in Birmingham, you could even live in one. So, that means you probably know how wide cracks in the doors and windows can be. You might not realize how much energy you’re losing by not sealing them up.

Don’t worry, because it’s an easy (and cheap) fix. You can caulk the window where the frame meets the exterior siding. Or, for less than $5 you can get a weatherstrip seal. Easy peasy.

3. This one takes about 2 seconds—open your blinds.

Content producer opening blinds.
Your pets will thank you big time for this tip. Photo via Matthew Niblett for Bham Now.

Take a tip from your cat or dog when you see them lounging in front of a window. Let the sun heat up your home during the day. Just don’t forget to shut them at night.

Theo is soaking up the rays while plotting which of my plants he’s going to knock over next. Photo via Matthew Niblett for Bham Now.

4. Set your thermostat between 68-70 degrees.

Birmingham thermostat set at 68 degrees.
Everyone is different, but this is generally a comfortable setting for most people that doesn’t use too much energy. Photo via Bham Now.

For every degree you lower your thermostat, you can save up to 4-5% on your heating costs. I know I could use that money for my gift giving this season! When you go to sleep, lower it below 68 degrees and cozy up in your favorite blanket (there’s a holiday gift idea for you.)

5. My personal favorite—bundle up!

A cat on a green couch.
A pet isn’t necessary when you’re trying to stay warm, but it definitely doesn’t hurt. Photo via Bham Now.

If you grew up in family like mine, every time you complained the house was too cold you were hit with the “put a sweater on!” It annoyed me when my biggest expense was downloading songs from iTunes, but now I understand.

Fun fact: we’re more sensitive to cold when our toes are exposed. Just try throwing on those $1 cozy socks from Old Navy before bumping up the heat. Plus it makes for a great excuse to go shopping for some cozy sweaters and blankets—okay maybe that defeats the purpose.

cat on a couch
I’ve bought multiple cat beds for Theo to only ever use the most expensive one—my couch. Photo via Matthew Niblett for Bham Now.

6. Do what we do with pretty much everything else—use the app.

Alabama Power app.
Low phone battery, even lower power bill. Photo via Matthew Niblett for Bham Now.

I’m about to simplify your life and save you energy in three steps:

  • Download the Alabama Power app—it’s just “Alabama Power.”
  • Log in and scroll down to “My Power Usage.”
  • Set a dollar amount to how much you want to spend on your power bill this month.

Now, you’ll receive notifications when you’re getting close to that price point for your power bill. You can even get an estimate on how much you will spend this month to help you budget ahead of time.

PLUS—there is a cute little graph that tracks your energy use each day to learn when you’re using energy.

Conserve energy and the environment at the same time! Enroll in paperless billing to save a few trees. Photo via Matthew Niblett for Bham Now.

7.Handwash your dishes OR quit using the heat-dry cycle.

Washing dishes
I need to make a mental note to send this picture to my roommates from college. Photo via Matthew Niblett for Bham Now.

Not to flex, but I don’t have a dishwasher so this one is easy for me. On the other hand, if you do want to use the appliance, try NOT rinsing them first.

Dishwashers already use an average of 15 gallons of hot water per load—plus electricity. Adding to that the water you use rinsing them and you could practically fill an ice rink.

When using your dishwasher, consider drying them by hand. The heat-dry option increases the electricity usage!

8.Have your HVAC system professionally serviced annually.

HVAC system
You only need to have your HVAC system serviced once a year, but it makes a BIG impact on how much energy you’re using. Photo via AlabamaPower.com.

Since the HVAC system is the largest portion of the energy bill, making sure everything is running smoothly is a great idea. You only have do it once a year—preferably at the beginning of heating or cooling season.

That’s fewer time a year than you go to the dentist (which is way worse in my opinion.) Plus, if you’re not having it checked for repairs then you’re most likely losing money.

9.Clear the vents!

A vent next to a lamp and candle.
This is especially true for floor vents, but if you have one on your wall like me there could be a piece of furniture covering it. Photo via Bham Now.

You see that dog bed blocking your vent? Move it over an inch. Cool—you’re now using less energy. Also watch out for things like furniture and curtains that could be covering it.

In addition, vents should be cleaned regularly with a vacuum cleaner or broom.

There are so many more ways to save, but I’m way better at telling people how to spend. So, follow Alabama Power on Facebook, Twitter and Youtube for additional advice from the experts. Here’s also an entire page dedicated to energy efficient tips.

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