- Home Improvement
How to stay warm without sending your heating bill through the roof
Ten tips for keeping the heat in and the fuel bill low
If you have seen your heating bills soar the last few years, the ten tips on this page could help you lower your heating bill significantly.
As a nation, we saw record cold over much of the country last winter, from the Midwest eastward, all along the Atlantic seaboard, and in the South.
While I live in unseasonably warm San Francisco today, I grew up and raised my children in far colder climes, where even in the 1970s, heating bills could go as high as $100 during the coldest months. Seems cheap now, doesn't it? Back then, that was a fourth of our monthly take-home pay.
Keeping warm, and keeping that heating bill in check was tough then and still is for family and friends around the country.
Did you know?
Americans are expected to spend on average $94 more to heat our homes this winter than last year. That's according to the National Energy Assistance Director's Association (NEADA), says USA Today in its article, Winter heating costs could rise an average 10.5%.
It doesn't have to be so bad this winter
Now is the time to take stock and fill the gaps--literally--so your heating bill is manageable.
My parents, who grew up in The Depression, knew how to save money and stay warm. They passed those strategies along to their children. I knew how to protect my family from both the cold and outrageous heating bills--something my then California-born-and-bred husband couldn't possibly know.
Here I share the ten best tips we employed for keeping warm and lowering our heating bill. Some of these tips require a few bucks, or more, depending on the size of your house and the heat gaps. Most costs are recoverable within the first year. After that, the savings are all gravy.
Most importantly, watch for the no-cost solutions. Yes, you can save money on your heating bill without spending a cent. Go ahead, take a look.
Are you a snowbird or do you tough it out?
Are you a snow bird? Or do you stay put?
Some of these tips will help you save money year round
One of the benefits of winterizing your home, is that some of these tips will help you save air conditioning energy costs in the summer as well. Of particular benefit: Weatherstripping, our number one tip for saving money on heating bills saves on the AC bills too.
1. Weatherstrip your doors and windows so heat, and your dollars, stop flying out the window
Invest a few dollars and a few hours installing inexpensive weatherstripping. You should begin to see savings on your heating bill right away. If you do it now, you may also see savings on your cooling bills this summer. You save all year long!
Think about the heat you're paying for this way: Heat wants to escape. It looks for every tiny crack it can find and slips away. These products will help trap that heat inside--and in summer months, outside--saving energy and saving you dollars. Plus, they are surprisingly easy to install.
This all-weather PVC seal conforms both to the floor and the door to minimize or eliminate airflow.
Watch for bargains on by-the-foot weatherstripping
Look for by-the-foot bargains on all-weather weatherstripping like this one. It keeps cold air out in winter and hot air and dust out in summer time.
2. Close the doors to rooms you seldom use and shut the heating vents--A no-cost solution
During a deep freeze, like the one we saw on the East Coast and in the Midwest last year, you can save substantially on your heating bill by sealing off unused rooms.
From personal experience, I can assure you this works. As renters, we have no control over the building heat, which we get for four hours twice a day, 365 days a year, no matter the temperature outside.
We feel the cold any time the temperature drops. On wet, windy days, our apartment is quite chilly. To conserve what meager heat we have, we close this door, keeping as much heat in the room we use most as possible. I'm always amazed how well this works, considering that much of the door is glass.
3. Seal your door jambs
Put a seal between the bottom of your door and cold drafts in winter, hot gusts in summer.
Over time, the gap between the floor and the bottom of the door widens. You can choose from a variety of seal types. Aluminum ones like this close the gap without causing the door to drag.
Fits up to 36" wide doors.
This draft stopper is weighted, insulated with nylon fiberfill, and covered with synthetic fleece.
Or capture heat with a door snake
Make your own from fabric remnants and recycled materials. Martha Stewart shows us how, step-by-step, with her Draft Dodgers for Doors and Windows.
If sewing is not your thing, look in your local stores (Shop local!) starting in the late fall for door snakes similar to this one. They come in dozens of fun fabrics, patterns and colors, with and without handles.
This pretty scooped neck Thermasilk undershirt helps to keep you warm on the coldest days.
4. Turn the heat down to 67 and wear multiple lightweight layers
Just turning your heat down a few degrees nets savings in the monthly heating bill. Stay warm by adding a couple layers to your winter ensemble.
On cold days, check the back of your closet and dresser drawers for thin garments you can layer on for warmth without bulk.
Cross-country skiers and hunters know this trick. Lightweight layers trap heat in air pockets between the garments, keeping you warmer than a single heavy sweater.
If you don't find what you need, consider Thermasilk. I'm a big fan of this super lightweight material, which is designed to wick moisture away from your body, yet provide an insulating layer to keep you warm and dry no matter what you're doing.
To me, it feels almost like wearing nothing at all against my skin, but provides that insulating layer that keeps me toasty warm in cold weather.
Undershirts like the one you see here are made in sizes and styles to fit women and men's respective body types. Your local sporting goods stores carry this brand, which also includes full-length pant and trouser liners, again without adding bulk.
Thermasilk gloves are thin enough and flexible enough to permit you to type, which comes in handy if you live in a drafty apartment like we do. They also make sock liners, which are wonderful under wool socks. No itching!
Save more than money
When you save on your heating bill, you help the environment, help slow global warming and climate change a tad, and live a little greener, all while bettering your bottom line. That's something to feel good about!
5. Turn the thermostat to 62 while you're away during the day--Another no-cost solution
Better yet, install a programmable thermostat that will turn the heat down when you're away and turn it back up an hour before you arrive home so your home is comfortably warm when you get there.
This little gem is energy-star compliant and adjusts to winter or summer heating and cooling automatically. You can also program it to conserve energy while you are away on vacation.
6. Turn the thermostat down while you're sleeping--Still another no-cost solution to save you money all winter long
Put extra blankets on your bed and turn down the heat at night. Studies show we are healthier when we sleep in a cooler room, so pile on a couple of extra blankets, put on your flannel PJs and sleep comfy!
Incidentally, this is another time a programmable thermostat can save you money and keep you comfortable. Program it to turn the heat down at your normal bedtime and up half an hour before you usually rise.
7. Keep the blinds and draperies closed at night and when you're away--ANOTHER no-cost solution
Saving is easy!
Windows are huge heat-loss sinks. Close the draperies to conserve heat in winter.
Keeping blinds and draperies closed when you are not using a room and at night will save dollars on your heating bill each month. Depending on the size of your house and the cost of fuel in your area, it could potentially save tens or hundreds of dollars.
8. Bake bread, pies and casseroles to help warm the house and your spirits
Take advantage of the cold weather to use your oven and bake up a storm. Go ahead, bake extra and freeze cupcakes, pies and casseroles for those days down the road you might not have time to bake.
These are just a few of our favorite recipes to get you started
- Fluffy, cheesy, whole wheat biscuits
Whole wheat makes them healthier, cheese makes them extra tasty, and I've finally learned how to make whole wheat biscuits lighter and fluffier
- Fantastically Good and Ghoulish Whole Wheat Sugar Cookies
These organic whole wheat sugar cookies really are fantastic. Don't make them if you're trying to lose weight! Or if you want the batch to last until you get them frosted. If providing organic, whole foods is a challenge for you at Halloween,...
- Healthy (homemade) Bread in Five Minutes a Day, Yes!
Is it possible to enjoy fresh-baked, healthy, whole grain bread with just five minutes prep time each day? Yes. YES! Five minutes--or less--is all you need to spend each day to get fresh, hot, healthy bread popping out of your oven. Who doesn't...
9. Close the fireplace flue when you're not using the fireplace--Another no-cost solution
It's such a simple thing, and so easy to forget. Stop warm air from escaping up your cold chimney, but make sure the fire is dead out--no smouldering embers--before you close that flue!
If you seldom use your fireplace, consider investing in a chimney draft stopper. As you know, heat rises, and if there are gaps in your flue trapdoor, that chimney is sucking heat right out your room and up into the sky.day and night.
When you're not using your fireplace, insert this plug to stop hot air from getting past an older flue plate. Reviewers say it has made a noticeable difference in their winter heating bills.
Just be sure to take a minute to remove it and put in the storage bag that comes with it before you start your next fire!
10. Keep a pot of your favorite hot beverage handy
San Francisco apartments can get chilly any time of year. One way we keep warm: A pot of hot tea,
Currently, we boil our water stove top, but my daughter uses the Breville automatic tea kettle. She's had it for years and insists I should get one. It shuts off automatically, so you never have to worry about boiling the kettle dry, as this old lady has done on a couple of occasions. Meh.
My daughter and her hubby, who drink tea English style several times a day, love their cordless tea kettle. It has a little window under the handle so you can see how much water is left.
Mom's garden in winter--It's been cold back home too
View outside Mom's dining room window, Christmas 2012. Her house was as toasty warm that day as ever.
They had even more snow last winter. At 91, Mom still goes out and sweeps off her deck every time it snows.
Thank you for visiting this page
How do you and your loved ones stay warm when Jack Frost decorates your windows and the temperature keeps dropping?
© 2013 Kathryn Grace