Winter Energy Use: Questions and Answers

We all know energy is required to heat our homes, and during extreme weather, that need increases. But there are many questions about the impacts of seasonality on energy usage to be asked. We have answers.

Q:          Does my energy usage go up in the winter?

A:           Despite the fact it takes energy to stay cool in the summer, it’s true that we use more energy in the winter. There are a number of reasons why, aside from heating our homes.

Most people spend more time at home and inside during winter than any other time of year. So even if you program your thermostat to conserve energy while you’re away, if you’re home more during the winter, your HVAC is working longer to keep your home at your preferred comfort level than it is in the summer.

Also, if you heat with natural gas, electricity is still required to power the fan and distribute the warm air. The use of space heaters, electric blankets and other devices increases. And, because of the cold temps, people tend to take more hot showers and baths.

Don’t despair, though. Being aware of some of these details can help curb an excessive amount of energy usage, plus, we have a few tips on how to be more energy efficient in the rest of the blog.

Q:          Should I turn down the thermostat when I’m away or asleep, or leave it set at a constant temperature all the time?

A:           There has been much debate about which method saves both energy and money. One theory being that leaving your thermostat set to a constant temperature all year long will save money and energy because your HVAC system won’t have to work hard to return the home to the desired heat setting.

According to the U.S. Department of Energy, this is a common misconception. The truth is that it requires more energy to keep the house at its normal temperature than to heat it back to that temperature after dialing the thermostat down. Heat naturally moves to places where it’s cold. So if your heat is up, it is constantly moving from the inside of your house to the outside, even if your house is well-insulated. A home loses energy more slowly once the temperature inside drops below normal levels. The longer the house remains cold, the more energy it saves compared to the energy lost that comes when the heater is humming along at its normal temperature.

But is it worth the hassle? The U.S. Department of Energy advises “you can save as much as 10 percent per year on heating and cooling by simply turning your thermostat back seven to 10° for eight hours a day from its normal setting.”

Q:          Are there other ways to be energy efficient in the winter?

A:           Yes! There are several ways to control your energy spend in the winter and all year long. Here are just a few:

  • Unplug appliances or devices not in use – From countertop appliances to phone chargers, there are probably devices not currently in use that are plugged in across your home. While these devices are out of sight and mind, they are slowly using energy and increasing your monthly bills. One or two items may not be a concern, but homeowners can have dozens of connections wasting electricity even when systems are powered off.

Unplugging devices has the potential to save you money and energy, as well as increase the life of your belongings. The more items you have plugged in around the house, the more susceptible your devices are to damage through an unexpected power surge.

The U.S. Department of Energy reports that homeowners can save anywhere between $100 and $200 each year by unplugging devices not in use. Typically, an item drawing a single watt of energy costs about one dollar to power annually.

  • Upgrade your lighting with LEDs – The type of lightbulb you use is important for several reasons. All lightbulbs have a nominal or rated operating life, which is affected by how many times they are turned on and off. The more often they are switched on and off, the lower their operating life. 

The operating life of a LED is unaffected by turning it on and off. This characteristic gives LEDs several distinct advantages when it comes to operations. For example, LEDs can be used in conjunction with occupancy sensors or daylight sensors that rely on on-off operation.

  • Close your curtains – One of the easiest ways to combat the cold temps and help ease the work of your HVAC system is to utilize insulated window treatments. When the sun is shining through the windows, open the drapes to allow the sun to help add heat to your home. Likewise, at night or when there is no sun, close the drapes to help insulate your windows and keep the cold at bay.

Stay safe and warm this winter and remember to be aware of your energy use. Just because our energy consumption typically increases during the winter doesn’t mean we can’t improve our efficiencies and control our energy spend.

AEP Energy does not guarantee the accuracy, timeliness, suitability, completeness, freedom from error, or value of any information herein. The information presented is provided “as is”, “as available”, and for informational purposes only, speaks only to events or circumstances on or before the date it is presented, and should not be construed as advice, a recommendation, or a guarantee of future results. AEP Energy disclaims any and all liabilities and warranties related hereto, including any obligation to update or correct the information herein. Summaries and website links included herein (collectively, “Links”) are not under AEP Energy’s control and are provided for reference only and not for commercial purposes. AEP Energy does not endorse or approve of the Links or related information and does not provide any warranty of any kind or nature related thereto.

Up Next

National Electrical Safety Month: Staying Safe


Each year, the Electrical Safety Foundation International (ESFI) dedicates the month of May to promoting electrical safety.  According to the ESFI, an estimated 51,000 residential fires are caused by an electrical failure or malfunction, resulting in approximately 500 deaths and 1,400 injuries totaling more than $1.3 billion in property damage. Whether you rent or own your home, …

What’s the Difference Between an Energy Supplier and the Utility?


Understanding Energy Choice If you live in a state that offers energy choice, you have the option to purchase natural gas and electricity supply services from a retail energy supplier. Energy choice offers many benefits for residents and small businesses such as the ability to shop and compare energy prices, as well as choosing from …