Tips to beat frigid temps, save energy

Keep your energy use in check, avoid hefty electric bills during cold weather

By Crystal Moyer - Traffic/reporter

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - With this cold front headed our way, many of you will be cranking up the heat in your homes. Here's some tips you and your family can use to get through the frigid temperatures in the next few days.

Colder weather can have a direct affect on your energy consumption and in turn, you may see a higher electricity bill in the winter.

Save on electricity bills by setting thermostat to 68 degrees

There are a lot of little things out there you can do to keep your energy bill down, but when it gets really cold outside, a lot of it has to do with your thermostat and the Jacksonville Electric Authority said you'll save energy by setting it at 68 degrees.

• You'll save up to 22% on your heating costs compared to a setting of 72 degrees.

• Every degree above 68 will add 5% to the heating portion of your electric bill.

• Make sure you set your thermostat 3 to 5 degrees cooler when you're not at home.

• Heat pumps have Emergency and/or Auxiliary settings. When your thermostat indicates your heat pump is using Emergency or Auxiliary power, it has turned on electric heat strips within the unit. These strips warm the air inside your home when the heat pump alone can't and are three times more expensive to operate.

• If you feel a chill, dress in layers

"We want you only to change your thermostat one or two degrees at a time, so you avoid the use of your auxiliary or emergency power that is three time more expensive because those heat strips have to work really, really hard to heat that quickly," said Gerri Boyce, spokesperson for JEA.

VIDEO: Heat Strips Can Be Costly

JEA also recommends checking your windows and doors to see if they're airtight. You can use rolled towels or blankets to block gaps under doors or leaks in windows.

Space heaters use less electricity than your heat pump, but it will only save you money if you turn the thermostat down and only have it on when you're in the room.

Insulate against heat loss

Insulate and weather-strip your home to prevent heat loss and keep cold air out.

• Weather-strip around doors and windows

• Seal cracks or crevices where two different building materials meet

• It's also a good idea to weather-strip between heated and unheated areas such as garages, basements and attic openings

Space heater safety

Space heaters use less electricity than your heat pump, however, only if you turn down the thermostat and only have the space heater on when you are in the room. Note: Space heaters can greatly reduce your heating bill but are dangerous if you do not properly operate and maintain them according to the manufacturer's instructions, so please use due care.

• Never leave a space heater unattended

• Never leave a space heater on while sleeping

• Never place a space heater close to flammable items

• Make sure the space heater has "tip over protection"

Watch JEA's YouTube video on Space Heater Safety

Air filters

Check and/or change air filters every month. Only use the filter designed for your system. Higher micron filters (thicker) can be seen by your heat pump as a dirty filter, which can increase operating costs.

Protect your pipes

Before Cold Weather:

• Detach all those water hoses from the house and drain them before storing for the winter.

• Cover all pipes in your home's crawl space and attic with some type of insulation. You can find pipe wrapping materials at any hardware or building supply store. Consider covering your outdoor faucets, as well.

• Cold winds blowing through holes and crevices in your house won't only drive up your heating bill but can also freeze nearby pipes. Use weather-stripping and caulk to save your money and your pipes. Be careful not to plug air vents that are used by combustible appliances such as your gas water heater.

• Know exactly where that master water shut off valve is for your house way before you actually need to use it. It is usually located where the water line enters your house (or near the water heater or washing machine). Paint it a bright color, keep it accessible, and make sure everyone in the household knows where it is.

If a freeze is forecast

• Drip the faucets. A trickle of hot and cold water could be all it takes to keep your pipes from freezing. Letting warm water drip overnight from a faucet next to an outside wall will do the trick.

• Open the cabinets. Allow your pipes to steal warmth from the room by opening the cabinet doors under the sinks. Especially those next to an outside wall.
If Your Pipes Freeze

• If you turn on the faucets and no water comes out, leave the faucets on and call a plumber. If you can determine that a burst has occurred, leave the faucet on and turn the water off at the master shut-off valve.

• Never try to unfreeze a pipe using an open flame due to the potential of fire.

• Use a low heat setting on a blow dryer with caution—keep in mind that if there is a burst somewhere in the line, you will have water gushing there once thawed. Don't just heat one area of the pipe as you can cause it to burst. And, again, know where that master water shut-off valve is so you can stop the water quickly if needed.

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