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Ways to keep warm — and spend less

| December 22, 2020 1:00 AM

“It’s beginning to look a lot like” — winter.

Snow falling and temperatures dropping also mean energy bills rising for the next few months.

That doesn’t mean we’re helpless. Check out these energy-saving (and environment-friendly) tips from Kootenai Electric, Avista and

1. Follow the sun — and breeze. Let sunlight in windows during the day for warmth, then after sunset close blinds and curtains to reduce the cold coming in. And since hot air rises, a ceiling fan set on low, clockwise can send warm air downward in large rooms.

2. Water Heaters. Newer models with heat pumps are more efficient, but if you can’t afford to replace the old one, try setting the thermostat to 120 degrees.

3. Dishwashers. Many have energy-saving settings. Wait until full before using. Do you really need “heat” dry? Even pennies add up.

4. Low-flow shower heads cost as little as $10 and reduce hot water use without making you cold. Speaking of showers, they’re cheaper because they use less energy than baths.

5. Seal leaks and drafts. Dripping hot water faucets or pipes leak up to 2,000 gallons per year and waste power. Caulk window cracks and weather strip along door frames. Close air vents and doors in unused rooms.

6. Refrigerator. Vacuum coils on the back or bottom to remove dust and debris. Set refrigerator temperature no colder than 37 degrees and freezer at 0 degrees Fahrenheit. If the freezer’s not frost-free, defrost it regularly. When replacing one, note that ENERGY STAR® appliances get a rebate.

7. Oven. Preheating may not be necessary for dishes needing more than an hour to cook. Avoid opening the oven door; each time you can lose 25 percent of the heat inside. Glass or ceramic cookware conducts heat more efficiently, so with some recipes you can reduce the cooking temperature by 25 degrees. Finally, when you turn it off, leave the door open and use that leftover heat.

8. Microwaves reduce cook times and energy by up to 40 percent.

9. Clothes Dryer. Keep the dryer vent (generally behind it) unclogged from lint, and clear at the exit outside the home. Clear off the lint screen before each load. Wash and dry near-full loads. Remove clothes immediately at the end of the drying cycle to reduce "fluff" or "wrinkle guard" times.

10. When away from home a few days set the thermostat to 50-55 degrees, and turn off the electric water heater.

And finally, a tip that saves year-round: According to the U.S. Department of Energy, you can save 10 percent on energy bills just by lowering the thermostat setting by 10 to 15 degrees for eight hours a day. Just bundle up under the blankies while dreaming of dancing sugarplums.

For more tips see

Sholeh Patrick is a columnist for the Hagadone News Network. Contact her at