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Winter is coming. And unfortunately, as I found out last year, heating a house is insanely expensive. It cost me over five hundred dollars every three weeks to keep this dang house warm! That’s just unsustainable. So, this year, I knew I had to figure out how to save money on heating. So that’s exactly what I did. Read on to find out how I did it!
How to Save Money on Heating
The first thing I did to save money on heating was to not turn the heat on. Genius, I know. Tons of people already had their heaters pumping in early October, when the temperature got down to the forties for the first time. Not me. I braved the cold, hoping my house would keep at least the worst drafts out (hint – it didn’t, but you can read all about how I fixed that below!).
It’s been colder lately – it even got into the teens a few nights! Unfortunately, I can’t keep the heat off with temperatures that low- it would freeze the pipes. Fixing that would be far more expensive than paying a little extra for heat. Instead, I keep the thermostat at a brisk fifty degrees. It’s warm enough to keep the pipes from freezing, but 50 degrees is still quite cold. There are ways to make it bearable though.
How to Stay Warm While Keeping the Heat off (or down)
One of my favorite ways to stay warm in my brisk fifty-degree house is to wear tons of layers. I’ve got on my pajama pants, slippers, top, and a warm cozy robe. These things helped a ton when it was fifty degrees or above, but when it got a tad bit below that, I had to sweeten the mixture up a bit with some toasty throw blankets. They got the job done. Besides, what’s the point of winter if you can’t snuggle up under some warm blankets?
It’s stew season for a reason! The warm hearty stews are not only delicious, but they warm you up too! Holding that hot bowl of deliciousness while you slowly savor every bite is almost like heaven on a cool fall day.
The same is true of tea, which we have been drinking an awful lot of lately. Just having a warm cup to hold for a half hour or so really helps the cold disappear for a while. It warms and soothes you from the inside out. And, as a bonus, it’s delicious.
Sunlight is your Friend
During the summer, standing in a bit of sunlight can be miserable. But in the wintertime, it can do wonders for helping you warm your house. Don’t be afraid to open those drapes and let some sunlight in. The radiant daylight will help warm your house naturally, and can also help you save energy on lighting. Every little bit helps, right?
Ok, the real star of our stay warm show has been our brand-new space heater. These babies warm up a room! True, they do take electricity, but it’s way cheaper to heat up a single room to a comfortable level with a electric space heater than it is to heat the entire house with the expensive oil heating that we have (it’s also cheaper to heat one room than the entire house with electricity). Space Heaters are also fairly energy efficient. We used one to heat the room we were in all winter long, and never saw an increase in our utility bills.
The downside of a space heater is their propensity for causing fires. You have to be extremely careful when using one. Never ever leave a space heater on when you leave the house. In fact, you should unplug it when you aren’t going to be home just to be safe. Keep them at least three feet away from any type of flammable material (including carpets – so never place it on a carpeted floor!). Also, make sure you get a space heater with an automatic shut off in case it tips over.
How to Prepare Your House for Winter
Another important way you can save money on heating is by finding ways to keep the heat that you do produce inside the house. There are so many ways for it to escape, especially if you have an older fixer-upper. Keeping that sweet heat inside the house will definitely save you money on your heating costs.
The biggest culprit for escaping heat is the windows. Many of them have tiny drafts, and if they are single pane windows (like 6 of the windows in the super old house) then they have absolutely no insulation. That needs to be fixed.
Luckily, there’s an easy do-it-yourself solution to drafty windows, and that’s plastic. You can even get a DIY-window insulation kit for easy, no fuss insulation. We simply used plastic sheeting and double-sided tape. We probably don’t have as powerful of a seal as the kits with their heat seal, but the bedroom has been noticeably warmer since we put the plastic up. Losing the window is a small price to pay for saving all that warmth.
Another not so easy fix is to ensure that your home is properly insulated. As it turns out, there was hardly any insulation in our attic, and the stuff that was there wasn’t even rated for winter. Nice, right?
On the plus side, installing insulation isn’t that difficult. All you need is the right type of insulation, gloves, and a staple gun. Once you have those things, you just have to lay it out and staple it into place. That’s not too difficult now, is it?
The final thing we did to keep our heat in the house is seal off the doorways. We got all the materials for weather stripping our doors from Lowes, and you can click here to find out what kind you will need. Installing them was fairly easy – they just go in the creases of all the doors. I say it’s easy like I actually did the work myself, hint – I didn’t. It’s nice to have a partner who will help you with these things. He said it was easy. But either way, doing this ensured that the cold air couldn’t leak in from closed doorways.
Does Turning Down the Heat Save Money?
A lot of people like to keep the heat super low while they are away, and pump it up when they get home. The idea is that keeping it low all day will help them save money on heating. The other school of thought is that it’s not worth it – the energy saved from having the heat low all day is cancelled out by the energy that it takes to get the house to your ideal temperature. So which school is right?
The consensus is that if you are going to be gone for more than 8 hours, turning the temperature down actually does help! You should crank that baby down 10-15 degrees while you are away, and turn it back to the ideal temperature once you get home. But don’t turn it higher than the temperature that you want – that won’t really heat your home much faster and it will just waste energy.
What Should I set the Thermostat at in the Winter?
The ideal temperature for everyone is different. If you want to save money on heating, set the thermostat at a lower temperature than you would normally be comfortable with and follow some of my tips above to keep warm. You can also set it a bit higher if you have a super cheap or efficient heating system, or if you aren’t worried about heating costs.
But if you want to save a ton of money on heating, set it to the lowest temperature you can stand to remain comfortable. Like I said, the thermostats in my house are at a brisk fifty degrees! That’s warm enough that I can be comfortable with my blankets and tea, but also low enough that I won’t burn through all my oil in two weeks.
How Can I Reduce My Heating Bill?
If you’ve already winterized your house and don’t want to feel cold all winter, there are still some additional ways to save energy. That’s what reducing the heating bill is all about, right? Reducing energy consumption? Here are some additional things you can do to reduce your electricity bills.
1.Use a programmable thermostat
A programmable thermostat will help you stay in control of your home’s temperature. As we said above, it’s actually worthwhile to change the temperature of your house if you’re going to be gone for 8 hours, but no one wants to manually switch that dial four times a day. Instead, get a programmable one and set it to automatically warm your house about an hour before you will arrive home, and an hour before you are set to wake up. This will reduce your energy use without you even noticing.
2. Chose energy efficient appliances
A great way to conserve energy overall is to use energy efficient appliances. Pretty much every type of appliance from your dishwasher to your fridge to your dryer now have energy efficient options. Now I know it isn’t cost effective to replace perfectly good appliances, but when it’s time for a new one, be sure to look for that energy star label.
3. Conserve hot water
I like a long hot shower as much as the next guy. But, taking your time in the shower can be wasteful. It takes a lot of energy to heat water, even if you have a tankless water heater. Try to be a little faster in the shower. Lower the water temperature slightly. These small changes will hardly be noticeable to you, but will save you money on your energy bills over time.
4. Conduct maintenance on your HVAC
Yes, maintenance on your heating and cooling systems can be expensive. But preventive care on these systems is the best way to ensure that they are running efficiently, and will definitely help you save on energy over time. Regular maintenance on these systems can also help you discover a problem before it become severe, saving you even more money. Another bonus is that many of these systems are two-in-one (cooling and heating) so performing regular maintenance will help you save on cooling costs as well.
5. Be smart with lighting
There are quite a few ways to reduce energy costs when it comes to lighting. The easiest way is to just turn off lights ans open the curtains. This lets natural energy light your house and helps save energy. But you can also chose energy efficient light bulbs to light your house when natural lighting just won’t cut it.
When it comes to light bulbs, there are tons of options. Incandescent bulbs are the traditional, cheaper bulbs, but they are also the least energy efficient. Compact Fluorescent light bulbs are much more energy efficient, but the do need to be recycled. LEDs are the most energy efficient, but they are also the most expensive. However, they use almost 25% less energy and last way longer than regular incandescent lights – so if you have the money to pay up front, they are definitely worth it over time. Check out Energy.gov for a full break down of differences between these lighting options.
What are your Tips for Saving Money on Heating?
Since this is my first real winter, I’ve done all the things that the experts recommend and that I can think of. But, if you have any hot tips for how you’ve survived the winter without paying crazy amounts for heating, I’d love to hear them!
Melanie launched Partners in Fire in 2017 to document her quest for financial independence with a mix of finance, fun, and solving the world’s problems. She’s self educated in personal finance and passionate about fighting systematic problems that prevent others from achieving their own financial goals. She also loves travel, anthropology, gaming and her cats.