Fall means changing leaves, apple and pumpkin picking seasons, shorter daylight hours and lower temperatures. It’s also the perfect time to assess how to make your home more energy efficient before the freezing temperatures arrive. Here are a few recommendations on how to do so:

The heating season is here

Now is the time to have your HVAC system checked for annual maintenance if you have yet to do it this year. This ensures efficiency and comfort in your home. Check your furnace filter regularly and change the filter every three months, especially if there are pets in your home or if you notice dust or dirt build up on the filter. As colder temperatures settle in, resist the urge to use space heaters. Electric space heaters convert only 30 percent of fuel energy into electricity. If your space is cold enough that you need an additional heat source, this could be a sign that you need additional insulation or air sealing and it is time to have someone assess your home’s heating and cooling system. Also, if you need to purchase a new furnace or boiler, there are rebates available for high efficiency furnaces and boilers. Please review the Nicor Gas or Peoples Gas websites for the details.

Don’t forget about your home’s nooks and crannies

It’s also a great time to assess your home to see where there are any leaks or gaps where heat could be escaping. Make sure to also look around your windows for places to caulk, add weather stripping to doors and look for gaps around your electrical outlets. These minor fixes could result in large savings on your utility bills. You can learn more about weatherizing your home here. And better yet, schedule an energy audit to find out where you can save the most and understand better where long-term energy savings can come from.

Curtains: not just for decoration

Since summer is gone, it’s now time to open those curtains during the daytime so that you can allow the sunlight to naturally heat your home, especially on south-facing windows. At night, close the curtains to help retain your home’s heat. Drapes with lining attached to the backside of the drape are particularly effective at helping to conserve energy.

Programming your thermostat makes a big difference

As you and your family shift from a summer schedule to a fall schedule, it’s important to think about adjusting your thermostat in order to save energy and money.  A programmable thermostat makes those adjustments much more convenient.  By using a programmable thermostat, you can set back the temperature when you are asleep or gone from your home using programmed settings. Lowering the thermostat by 1˚F can decrease energy usage by 2 percent. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, you can save as much as 10 percent a year on heating and cooling costs by turning a thermostat back 7˚-10˚F for eight hours a day from the typical setting used. If you would like even more control and convenience with your energy use, a smart thermostat may be right for you. Smart thermostats are devices that connect to Wi-Fi and allow remote control of heating and air conditioning settings in homes through smart phones, tablets and computers. Smart thermostats have been found to reduce energy use for home heating and cooling by an average of 8-15 percent, according to ACEEE 2015. The Environmental Law & Policy Center has said that this translates to $50-$130 in annual savings for the average Illinois customer. Through December 31, 2017, there are a multitude of different smart thermostats that qualify for up to $150 in rebates for customers that meet the eligibility requirements. Please review each of the utilities’ websites for eligibility requirements: ComEd, Nicor Gas, Peoples Gas and North Shore Gas. Visit the Environmental Law & Policy Center’s website to learn more.

Want to learn more about how you can save energy and money in your home all year round? Visit our website or contact Sarah Edwards at sarah.edwards@cookcountyil.gov for more information on smart meter and energy efficiency programs.