Are your fingers going numb from the cold while checking your phone in your living room? Can you see your breath while eating cornflakes in the morning? If you turned off the heat because of a ridiculously high electric bill, you’re paying more than you should be. It’s time to optimize your energy consumption with some winter energy-saving tips.

The latest smart home technologylike smart lights, futuristic thermostats and other devices — could  provide the energy savings you need to make heating your home affordable again, but before we go into the tech, let’s cover the basics:

Basic Heating and Insulation Tips to Reduce Energy Consumption

The cost of heating your home accounts for about 42 percent of your electric bill. You can reduce some of these costs with energy-saving heating equipment, but if you’re struggling to make ends meet as it is, you probably can’t afford a new unit. Instead, consider undergoing a professional home energy audit. This “auditor” will shoot a heat gun around your house, check crawl spaces, look for heat loss and point out all the tips and tricks that can reduce energy consumption.

If you want to beat the inspector to the punch, here’s a list of things to check out for yourself:

  • Lower the thermostat when you’re asleep. A good blanket is cheaper than heating your entire home.
  • Block off rooms you don’t use from the heat supply, and make sure the doors are shut and insulated.
  • Clean or replace furnace filters at least once a month.
  • Clear anything away from warm-air registers, radiators and baseboard heaters. Every heat emitter should be free and clear of furniture or boxes.
  • Learn how to remove trapped air from hot-water radiators. Do it once or twice each winter.
  • Don’t leave the kitchen and bath exhaust fans on longer than necessary.
  • Open your drapes and shades when the sun hits them. Close them when it doesn’t. While you’re at it, get thicker drapes; they keep out the winter cold like a warm blanket.

The U.S. Department of Energy estimates that, through a combination of equipment maintenance and improvements to insulation and thermostat settings, most Americans can slash their energy bills by 30 percent.

Now, for the tech: Invest in a Smart Lighting System

A “smart lighting system” sounds more complicated than it is. By replacing the light bulbs in and around your home with Wi-Fi-connected bulbs—and by installing an easy-to-use app on your smartphone—you’ll have an integrated smart lighting system up and running in no time. It’s easy to do this yourself, but sometimes, hiring a professional is the way to go.

Smart lighting won’t reduce your heating bill, but it could reduce overall energy consumption to offset the costs. Intelligent lighting systems turn off and dim your lights for optimum energy use. Most homeowners with smart lighting are surprised by how much electricity their old “not smart” lights were wasting.

Buy a Smart Thermostat, as Soon as Possible!

If you don’t do any of the above, at least buy a smart thermostat. As we covered in a previous blog post, rigorous testing showed that Alarm.com’s ENERGY STAR® certified “Smart Thermostat” can save you 9 to 16 percent in the winter months. This adds up fast!

Modern smart thermostats use intelligent monitoring to track your daily usage. These thermostats essentially program themselves to optimize heating and reduce energy consumption while you’re asleep or away from the house. You’ll be able to make your house cozier—when you want it to be warm and toasty—and still save cash on heating and electric.

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