Whether you live in a house or an apartment, one of your chief concerns this winter is going to be keeping your home warm. According to the Department of Energy, heating systems take up more than 29% of household utility bills. Fortunately, by combining proper equipment maintenance with adequate insulation, varied ways of providing heat, and some simple changes to household habits, you can see some serious savings. The following list contains tips for everyone to lower heating costs this winter, regardless of your home’s primary heating method.
- LOWER THE THERMOSTAT
Lowering the thermostat is probably the first course of action that comes to mind when pondering how to reduce your heating bills. In fact, lowering your thermostat by just a few degrees can help save as much as 10% on your bills. The Department of Energy suggests setting the thermostat to 68F while you’re awake and setting it a bit lower while you’re asleep or out of the house. One way to ensure you stick to these guidelines is to install a smart or programmable thermostat. That way, you’ll never forget to turn down the heat at night.
- ADJUST YOUR WINTER HABITS
Some methods for reducing wintertime heating bills are simpler than you’d think. Close the doors to individual rooms to help seal warmth inside. This can be especially beneficial if you live in a large home with multiple bedrooms. Using electric blankets is another easy way to stay warm without using a lot of energy, and they can make lowering the thermostat a few degrees at night more tolerable. One common-sense solution you might want to rethink is the impulse to pile on lots of clothes. You might think layering is a good way to stay warm without turning on the heating, but you should bear in mind that wearing more clothing means doing more laundry, which means using more gas or electricity. Wearing multiple sweaters might not end up saving you as much on your bills as you'd expect.
- ENSURE PROPER INSULATION
Another promising way to lower your heating bills is to ensure your home is adequately insulated. Without proper insulation, any heat produced by your heating system will just escape through cracks between doors and windows—even through your garage or attic. To prevent hot air from escaping through your attic, you can look into purchasing an attic tent. While you’re checking out your house, go ahead and insulate your water heater. You can usually add insulation to the rest of your house as well, but if any existing insulation is wet, has a bug infestation, or is especially outdated, you might need to do a complete insulation overhaul. It might seem inconvenient, but by keeping heat trapped where it belongs, you can prevent the need for your heating system to work itself extra hard.
- EXAMINE YOUR EQUIPMENT
Another place to start when trying to lower your heating bills is reviewing your heating system for aging or inefficient equipment. The average lifespan of a home furnace is 25 years, and furnaces that old might never have been very efficient in the first place. Even newer boilers could be wasting a lot of energy due to wear and tear. You should replace any worn out or leaky parts of your heating system as soon as they come to your attention, and get your furnace inspected regularly to make sure it continues to run smoothly.
- WEATHERPROOF DOORS AND WINDOWS
A prime consideration for keeping the heat in and the cold out of your home is weatherproofing. As the main culprit of preventable heat loss, old, unsealed, or improperly locked windows need to be examined and sealed with caulk or weatherstripping. One simple test to check whether you need any weatherproofing done is to light a candle near closed windows or doors. If the flame flickers, there might be an air leak that should be addressed. Remember to check for jammed windows as well. If a window can’t be locked or easily secured, it might be letting warm air escape from your home.
- CONTROL YOUR CURTAINS
Sometimes the most obvious solutions are the ones we forget to consider. For example, have you ever thought about the role your curtains can play in home heat loss? Keeping windows covered when it’s cold outside can regulate internal temperature and keep warm air securely inside. This reduces energy consumption, lowering energy bills in the process. It’s especially important to uncover windows facing east, south, and west during the day as they capture optimal levels of natural light and heat. Closing curtains around sunset then traps the heat accumulated during the day. Consider purchasing quilted curtains as thicker materials are great at trapping heat and retaining it at night.
- CHECK FOR BLOCKED AIRFLOW
Rearranging your furniture and appliances can be a simple way to decrease the necessary output from your heating system. You might not realize it, but the way your home is arranged could be blocking vents and restricting airflow. This can cause heating systems to work overtime because the warm air they produce can’t flow freely throughout your home. For example, did you set up your bookcase right in front of a heating grate? Is your giant armchair blocking your radiator from the rest of the room? Ensuring proper airflow reduces stress on your heating system and helps lower energy expenditure.
- LOWER THE WATER TEMPERATURE
Most manufacturers program water heater temperatures at 140F to ensure bacteria and other germs are killed off. But according to the DOE, such a high temperature isn’t necessarily required. In fact, it can even encourage mineral buildup and corrosion in your pipes. Water as low as 120F still kills off pathogens and is perfectly safe to use. Setting your water heater to this lower temperature can ultimately reduce your gas and heating costs by up to $400. Plus, lowering the water temperature from 140F to 120F helps keep family members safe from possible scalding.
- USE YOUR FIREPLACE WITH CAUTION
Your natural inclination might be to use your fireplace to warm up during the winter, but be aware that this can actually strain your heating system. As warm air escapes through your chimney, it leaves a vacuum that draws cold air into the room. Besides, lighting a fire isn’t necessarily the best way to save money as you have to factor in the cost of firewood while the air you’re already paying to heat goes out the chimney. One possible exception to the rule is if you’re in the room with the fireplace and you close it off from the rest of your home.
- ADD REFLECTORS TO RADIATORS
If your home uses radiators, one clever way to lower your heating bill is to add reflectors. Because radiators emit heat in all directions, heat is wasted when it is emitted toward walls instead of into the rest of your apartment. Reflectors are heat-resistant sheets that redirect warmth from radiators back into the room. Bear in mind that reflectors only work when they’re placed between a radiator and an exterior wall. Interior walls don’t contribute to your home’s total heat loss in the same way, so using reflectors on radiators against walls dividing rooms won’t really save you any money on heating bills.
- DIVERSIFY YOUR HEAT SOURCES
You might find that using different heating methods can help lower heating bills in the long run. Instead of always using whole-house heating, for example, you can try using a portable air conditioner with a built-in heat pump. One model you can try is the Honeywell MN4HFS9, which can provide heat for any room you’re in. Plus, an added benefit of portable air conditioners with heaters is that you can use them as traditional air conditioners when the weather warms. Another often forgotten solution is to reverse your fans so they spin clockwise. This actually draws cold air upward and pushes the naturally rising hot air back down into the room, helping you feel warmer. One other alternative heat source is efficient solar panels, which can help you save in the long term provided you can afford to install them.
- KEEP YOUR HEAT RUNNING
It might seem counterintuitive, but you should refrain from frequently shutting off your heat completely. Continually shutting off and restarting your heat is more expensive than just adjusting the temperature in your home. If you’re going away for an extended period of time, set the thermostat way down, but don't turn it off so you can ensure the pipes don’t freeze. Frozen pipes could require calling in a plumber to come and unthaw them. Worst case scenario, the pipes can burst—and you definitely don’t want that.
Just because the cold is coming doesn’t mean you have to be uncomfortable. With these pointers and a little of bit of work, you can make sure your home is nice and cozy all winter long.