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Added Jan 07 2015

Hope everyone is staying warm or is able to access the warming centers.

Just wondered if anyone who uses/used central heating had any pro tips on how to reduce electricity bills this winter. I'm trying to layer up and not set my thermostat too high but am wondering if there are any other little things I can do to try and reduce my costs. Thanks for the tips in advance!

  • DJM 25 yr. RP & Edgewater resident.

    Cover your windows either with plastic or drapes (dark, I know, but it can help block drafts and make your house warmer)

    Get a bunch of surge protectors and plug appliances into those. Turn it off when you're not using it (except for things that need to be on, like the fridge). Anywhere you see a red indicator light, that appliance is sucking electricity even though it's not on.

  • JCV My head hurts.

    If you don't have one where you live, and if it's possible, install a programmable thermostat or request your landlord installs one in your unit if you don't own. While it's debatable on the energy savings if you set it really low during a few hours of away time vs. the amount of energy it takes to reheat when you're back, it can save a lot of cost if you're away for a predictable amount of time and can set it slightly lower during those periods.

    Additionally, windows are a huge factor in energy loss. If you're in a building with old single pane windows, or even if you're in a new or rehabbed building with aluminum (not vinyl) windows, a lot of heat/cold transfer occurs at the window and frame itself. You can buy window insulation kits fairly cheap at Clark-Devon Hardware or Home Depot and most other hardware stores. They basically consist of some double stick tape you put around the window to adhere shrink-wrap plastic to, and then you use a hair dryer to shrink the plastic to form a temporary "double" pane. Adding this additional barrier prevents drafts and creates an insulating barrier against the old or aluminum windows that conduct cold energy inside. (Conversely, they offer the same extra barrier when it's hot out in the summer and if you have AC inside - so if it's not an eyesore, you can keep the plastic up on certain drafty windows to keep the cool air inside in the summer.)

    Other than that, check your doorways that lead directly outside. If you can feel a draft around the edges, they're insufficiently insulated. You can purchase rubber flashing in rolls super cheap at any hardware store. It comes self-stick and you can cut it to size with scissors. I've done it and noticed a big difference around our doors.

    Hope this helps. Stay warm!

  • Adopt a cat or two. They are reliable foot/lap warmers.

  • Helen NoH North of Howard for 55 + years

    Especially if your home is empty during the day and if it's your place and you have the option of doing so, contact ComEd to have a smart meter installed. Then you get real-time pricing. If you turn your thermostat down at night when you go to bed and when you're not home, you should see a savings. I've had one of those meters for years and have saved a lot during that time.

  • Insulate your windows with plastic as suggested above. Also, insulate all of your outlets. You can buy kits at the hardware store. It's basically a foam that you put behind the plate that reduces drafts. We've also put child safety covers on all of our unused outer wall outlets to reduce drafts. Get a draft dodger or just roll up a towel for the bottom of outer doors. Program your thermostat to keep lower temps during the day when you're gone and at night. We also have ours programmed so that it moves up only a couple of degrees at a time. It's easier on your furnace that way.

  • Can anyone tell me what the average cost of gas forced air and electric utilities are for a three bedroom two story duplex in the 1600 Estes block. Agent is not offering info so I'm gun shy about leasing

  • jenna! love is the law

    You can set your thermostat a bit lower if you have enough humidity in the air.
    If you don't already have one, get an energy efficient humidifier.

  • mclnoh RE Broker & Photographer

    If it's not an owner occupied building (4 or less units) the Agent is required to provide utility cost disclosures.

  • jldoolittle West Ridge resident since 2005

    Besides unplugging every electronic gadget and appliance not in use (even toggle off the surge protector to the wireless modem at night), I set both the refrigerator and freezer at their lowest settings. Since I shop weekly, nothing spoils - except ice cream melts. To keep ice cream, I set the freezer just below the recommended setting. My unit is about 1000 square feet and the electric bill runs from $20 to $30 monthly (the higher reflects the ice cream requirement). I don't use an air conditioner and I have steam heat. It is amazing how much energy a refrigerator uses.

  • Carl Good

    Use your oven. During the winter, the heat from the oven participates in heating your home, so the energy used offsets the heating required from the home furnace (as long as you aren't using the stove vent). Gas ovens are cheap to run: only around 10 cents per hour. Crock pots use more energy than your stove does, so do your slow-cooking in the oven (at 250 degrees your oven works exactly the same as your crockpot).

  • chrisfinn bornagain chicagoan

    Never use your stove/oven to heat your home. This is a very dangerous practice & could possible cause a house fire. Do not heat with especially gas stoves as the pilot light could go out. Contact ComEd or the Fire Dept. for better ideas. Never heat a house with a stove.

  • Chrisfinn, that is a very important safety recommendation. I do think Carl meant to cook food in the oven, with the door closed. However, I'll never forget the shock of walking into my place years ago with my (ex)boyfriend sitting in the living room while the gas burners and oven were all on full blast. Never again. I'd rather freeze than burn.

  • On the topic of electricity vs. gas...had a client at a food pantry who wanted to eat more whole grains, so we told him how to cook brown rice. Not gonna happen, he said--45 minutes of gas was more than he could afford, and electricity was cheaper than gas for him. I had never thought about the cost of cooking fuel relative to a food budget before, but now I ask about it when making recommendations.

  • vb urban explorer

    I believe the danger of using the stove/oven/range for home heating is not fire, but raising the CO2 levels and lowering the oxygen levels in the home. There are vent-less gas heaters that are essentially the same thing, but they have sensors that monitor the air and shut down before the air becomes dangerous.

  • Carl Good

    What a sad story, Becky. Cooking on a gas flame for 45 minutes probably costs less than five cents. The guy probably didn't realize how cheap burners are to run.

    And no, I wasn't advocating heating one's apartment with the stove. I was referring to the fact that stoves contribute to the overall heat of the unit, as a side-effect. But unless your oven is very old or defective, the chances that it will start a fire are pretty near zero, since the flames are contained in an insulated enclosure. The burners are another thing; have to be careful with the stovetop.

    The health effects from unvented natural gas flames have been wildly overexaggerated. Some people are sensitive to natural gas, but most of the fuss is unfounded cause-effect misdiagnosis, like the gluten free craze.

  • FGFM What the Cappleman!

    Carl is in the right ballpark on the numbers. I use my burners all the time and my connection typically costs more in the summer than the gas itself.

  • I wondered about that later, then thought that he may have been using a butane camp stove since it's portable. At another location on the north side I met a man who had just got a can opener and he was so excited. With no refrigeration and no can opener, your protein choices are either peanut butter or the canned tuna with a pull-top. PB and tuna for months on end, no eggs/milk/fresh meat/canned beans to break the monotony.

  • Thanks for the help, everyone! I'm definitely going to get window insulation kits and plug more up to surge protectors instead of directly to the outlets (but I'll be safe and not overload them)! I appreciate the time you all took to comment.

    Stay warm!

  • mamagotcha Write on!

    I'm putting up window insulation in my bedroom today... we had great luck with those kits in a house that had single-pane windows a few years ago, hoping to have the same result here. And they are actually relatively cheap and easy to install. The kids love doing the hair-dryer part!

  • In addition to installing shrink-to-fit plastic storm windows inside, highly recommend layering up. Even during the day when I am dressed, I wear a fleecy robe over my clothes. Saves so much energy!

  • Veronika "Kat" LiBeth Block Captain Obvious, Rocket Surgeon

    Patricia P Quay -

    Sorry I didn't see this sooner, even if Agent is not giving you the information, you can just call ComEd and People's Gas directly and ask them for electric and gas usage at that address. While the residents names might be private, the energy usage information is not and they will disclose it if you ask for a specific address. I did this with the last two apartments I moved into, so I know you can get the information yourself, for sure!

    Keep in mind that the information won't reveal whether the people generating the bills used energy conserving methods or not, so if the bills seem high there's no way to know if that was due to them not caring (and just paying high bills) or turning everything off/down whenever possible (and making expenses as low as possible though still high).

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