We’re not even halfway through winter yet. How are you handling the weather? Here in Columbia, SC, we don’t get the severe weather like areas north of us, but it’s still colder than you might expect. At McGuinn Hybrid Homes, we’re always looking for ways to help our homeowners save money by conserving energy. After all, “Hybrid” is our middle name! Here are some energy-saving tips that will lower your bills, not your comfort.Smarten up your thermostat. Heating costs can soar in the winter. Switch out your current thermostat to a smart thermostat that allows you to adjust the temperature from an app on your smartphone. Lower the temperature when you’re gone and turn it up just before you return so you’re not walking into a chilly home. The U.S. Department of Energy estimates that you can reduce your heating bill by 10% when you lower your thermostat 10 to 15 degrees for 8 hours a day.Get your systems serviced. Have your furnace and water heater inspected and serviced by a professional to get the heat and hot water you need without wasting energy. Steps like replacing dirty air filters help the furnace work more efficiently. Plug the leaks. Check for drafts around windows, doors, switchplates, outlets, vents, and any spaces that are directly connected to the outside. Use caulking, weather stripping, and insulation to eliminate drafts that wastefully suck up energy.Close your damper. Heat can escape through your fireplace. Inspect the seal on the damper to make sure it is preventing leaks, and keep the damper closed when you don’t have a fire burning. Make sure the fire is completely extinguished before closing the damper.Use natural daylight. The days are shorter in the winter, but you can still utilize the sunlight you have. Open up curtains and blinds to let the sunshine in during the day. Then close them at night to keep warmth inside.Shift your fan blades. Warm air rises. Push it back down where you want it by reversing the direction of the blades on your ceiling fan. They should move in a clockwise manner from the ceiling to the floor.Adjust your appliance temperatures. It’s not just the thermostat that needs adjusting in the winter. Lower the temperature on your refrigerator a few degrees, or switch to the energy-saving feature. You can also reduce the temperature on your water heater to no more than 120°F; wrap a blanket around it to insulate the water heater. Use cold water when washing your laundry, which also happens to protect colors and fabrics.Unblock vents. Make sure the vents are free of any obstacles, like furniture, plants, or boxes. The system works more efficiently when there’s a free flow of air.Put motion sensors on your outdoor lights. With the sun setting earlier, you probably use your exterior lights more often. Instead of a timer, use motion sensors to turn on these lights.Switch to LED bulbs. LED bulbs use less electricity and last far longer than incandescent, halide, or fluorescent. Use this calculator to see how much you’ll save.Beware of phantom load. Some electrical cords continue to eat energy even when the item it powers isn’t turned on. Phantom load, also known as “standby power” is drawn 24 hours a day from charging cords for electronics, power cords for appliances, and some power strips. On average, a household has 40 electrically powered items that draw power as soon as they’re plugged in, which accounts for about 10% of electricity use. Unplug your microwave, toaster, coffee maker, TV, phone and computer charging cords, computer, printer, and loaded power strips when not in use.When you’re ready to upgrade to a home that actually performs for you, look at McGuinn Hybrid Homes. We incorporate the latest in energy-efficient home design to protect you, your investment, and the environment. Our communities of single-family homes and townhomes are located in and around Columbia, SC. If you have a particular location in mind, talk to us about building a home on your land.