How to Be a Vampire Hunter, and More Halloween Energy-Saving Tricks


What's scarier than a haunted house? Sky-high heating and electric bills in the winter. This Halloween season, take some time to make sure your home stays warm and cozy in the months ahead, without wasting energy. These spooky energy-saving tips will protect you from ghastly energy vampires, frightful energy bills, and the spine-tingling chill of a polar vortex. Maybe even a zombie apocalypse, too.

Be alert for vampires
Computers, cable boxes, game consoles and other household electronics can be notorious energy vampires. They often suck down energy even when they're not being used and you think they're "off", and drive up your energy bills. NRDC's report "Home Idle Load: Devices Wasting Huge Amounts of Electricity When Not in Active Use," found the average annual cost of all wasted "idle" or "standby" power is $165 per U.S. household. Make sure your electronic devices are either are in energy-saving mode or completely powered down via a power strip or a timer when no one's using them. NRDC's action guide will help you spot these vampires and shut them down.

DO go into the check the furnace
Dirty filters can keep your furnace from getting the air it needs to operate efficiently, making it work harder, and costing you more money. Replace or clean dirty filters and you'll save on energy bills while extending the life of your furnace.

Arm yourself with a caulking gun
Drafty leaks from ill-fitting door frames and windows can cost you a bundle in lost heat. A caulking gun is the most effective defense against this horror. Look for cracked or missing pieces of old caulking around doors and windows both inside and out. If you can see daylight, it means air is leaking. Also check the small holes where pipes, cable and wiring come in from the outside. Gaps at those entry points could be as bad as leaving your front door ajar. Speaking of doors, consider installing new weather stripping around exterior doors.

Use the force, or at least a programmable thermostat
Programmable thermostats are a smart investment, and unlike the Force, they don't have a dark side. These thermostats can turn the heat down when no one is home, and turn it back up at a pre-set time so the temperature is comfortable when you return. They range in price from $25 to $250 (the more expensive ones can be set using a smart phone). A programmable thermostat can reduce energy use by 20 percent to 30 percent, possibly saving as much $180 annually on utility bills. Experts suggest the most efficient temperature range is 68° F to 72° F during the day in winter when you are home, and 55° F to 65° F at night. If you have a combined heating and cooling system and a programmable thermostat, make sure you adjust the set points you used during the past summer.

Fortify your defenses with insulation
Insulation in your attic is like a nice warm hat on your head. In winter, it keeps warm air inside the house (and cool air inside the summer). Make sure you have the recommended amount of insulation for your region of the country. The Department of Energy's website has lots of practical information on insulating existing homes or new homes. Also check with your local utility to see if rebates are offered for improving your insulation. You might save even more.

Brush the cobwebs off your ceiling fans
Ceiling fans aren't just cool for the summer. In winter, running a ceiling fan in reverse creates a gentle updraft, forcing warm air near the ceiling down into the cooler space below. This trick is especially effective in rooms with high ceilings. When you're under the fan and looking up, the blades should move clockwise in the winter and the other direction in the summer, when you actually want the fan to blow on you. Remember to use your fan only when room is occupied--otherwise you're just wasting energy, and money.

Banish the darkness with LED bulbs
The days are getting shorter, but with new LED lights you won't have to worry about the approaching darkness--or about big energy bills. These bulbs use about one-fifth the energy of the old incandescent bulbs that Edison invented a century ago. They'll likely see you through the next generation of trick-or-treaters, and depending on the bulb you pick can save you over $100 in energy costs over their lifetime.

For more cold weather tips to make sure vampires don't suck the energy out of your outlets and wallet, go here.