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How to stay warm without sending your heating bill through the roof

Updated on September 16, 2014
ecogranny profile image

An environmental enthusiast and activist her entire adult life, Kathryn shares her secrets to reducing waste and living greener.

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?

Cedar Waxwing in winter
Cedar Waxwing in winter | Source

Are you a snow bird? Or do you stay put?

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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.

Auto Care Products 55020 ProSeal 20-Foot Garage Door Bottom Seal with 1/4 Inch T-Ends
Auto Care Products 55020 ProSeal 20-Foot Garage Door Bottom Seal with 1/4 Inch T-Ends

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

Door closed during the day keeps the heat in the room where we spend most of our time
Door closed during the day keeps the heat in the room where we spend most of our time | Source

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.

Frost King DS2 Door or Window Draft Stop Cloth Seal, 3-Feet, Beige
Frost King DS2 Door or Window Draft Stop Cloth Seal, 3-Feet, Beige

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.

Terramar Women's Thermasilk Pointelle Scoop (Jazzberry, Large)
Terramar Women's Thermasilk Pointelle Scoop (Jazzberry, Large)

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.

Hunter 44550 Auto Save 7-Day Programmable Thermostat
Hunter 44550 Auto Save 7-Day Programmable Thermostat

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

Warm bed with lightweight blankets to pull up and cast down as needed
Warm bed with lightweight blankets to pull up and cast down as needed | Source

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

Draperies closed over upper-story windows
Draperies closed over upper-story windows | Source

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.

Sugar-crusted biscuits with date-bits and honey, adapted from the Fluffy, Cheesy Whole Wheat Biscuits recipe here
Sugar-crusted biscuits with date-bits and honey, adapted from the Fluffy, Cheesy Whole Wheat Biscuits recipe here | Source

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.

Fireplace draft stopper (large plug - fits most masonry fireplaces with dampers up to 38x16")
Fireplace draft stopper (large plug - fits most masonry fireplaces with dampers up to 38x16")

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!

 
Hot tea with honey keeps us warm inside and out on cold days
Hot tea with honey keeps us warm inside and out on cold days | Source

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.

Breville SK500XL Ikon Cordless 1.7-Liter Stainless-Steel Electric Kettle
Breville SK500XL Ikon Cordless 1.7-Liter Stainless-Steel Electric Kettle

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 from Mom's dining room window, Christmas 2012
View from Mom's dining room window, Christmas 2012 | Source

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

Please sign my guestbook, and share your favorite tip for keeping warm in winter

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    • ecogranny profile image
      Author

      Kathryn Grace 3 years ago from San Francisco

      @smine27: Layers do help a lot, and ginger tea is one of my favorite winter beverages. I make mine with fresh grated ginger, fresh-squeezed lemon and raw honey. How do you make yours?

    • smine27 profile image

      Shinichi Mine 3 years ago from Tokyo, Japan

      I wear a tight-fitting thermal shirt and a very warm thermal pair of pants in the house. I put the heater on in just one room, which works fine for me as that's where I work and sleep. If it gets really cold, I put on a down jacket! Some ginger tea works wonders as well.

    • ecogranny profile image
      Author

      Kathryn Grace 3 years ago from San Francisco

      @Frischy: You are so right. It makes a big difference in the heating bill too. Good luck staying warm.

    • Frischy profile image

      Frischy 3 years ago from Kentucky, USA

      In January we moved from a house with pretty good insulation to a house with poor (if any) insulation. We have been so cold! I have been rushing around trying to seal up the little gaps that let in a whole lot of cold air. It is surprising what a difference it can make!

    • ecogranny profile image
      Author

      Kathryn Grace 3 years ago from San Francisco

      @TanoCalvenoa: So glad to hear you are already following these guidelines. I always enjoy meeting other conservationists here on Squidoo. Like you, I live in California, although farther north, and we love 60 degree weather. If it gets up to 70, we feel like we're having a heat wave!

    • profile image

      TanoCalvenoa 3 years ago

      Ha, my family follows all these recommendations even though we live in Southern California. For us, a day that never gets above 60 degrees is a cold one! However, I've lived in real cold before - two winters in Michigan.

    • ecogranny profile image
      Author

      Kathryn Grace 3 years ago from San Francisco

      @Zeross4: Glad to hear you are staying warm after weatherizing your home. I trust you will see a big difference in your heating bill this winter.

    • ecogranny profile image
      Author

      Kathryn Grace 3 years ago from San Francisco

      @goldenrulecomics: So cool to hear. Thanks for stopping by.

    • goldenrulecomics profile image

      goldenrulecomics 3 years ago

      We follow most of your tips!

    • Zeross4 profile image

      Renee Dixon 3 years ago from Kentucky

      Thanks for all the tips, we just got done weather proofing our basement for the cold weather. It seems to have helped. Great article to check and make sure we didn't miss something! We used the weather strips you listed above to seal the door frame better, it had some air coming in! Now we just need some hot tea, and fuzzy socks :)

    • evelynsaenz1 profile image

      Evelyn Saenz 3 years ago from Royalton

      A rolled up towel at the bottom of a drafty window can really help. Also, go down in the basement with a roll of pink insulation. Pull off tufts of it to stuff into drafty holes. This works well in the attic as well.

    • NibsyNell profile image

      NibsyNell 4 years ago

      I just eat loads so I put on weight lol! And drink lots of coffee too... :)

    • Diana Wenzel profile image

      Renaissance Woman 4 years ago from Colorado

      A nice hot bubble bath does it for me. Always nice to sip on some hot tea, also. Excellent tips. I've been frozen down to the bones all winter.

    • profile image

      DebMartin 4 years ago

      Great tips. I'm all for bread, pies and casseroles!

    • ecogranny profile image
      Author

      Kathryn Grace 4 years ago from San Francisco

      @SandraWilson LM: I so agree with you!

    • ecogranny profile image
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      Kathryn Grace 4 years ago from San Francisco

      @A-Marie: I so agree! I'm a long-time snuggler.

    • ecogranny profile image
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      Kathryn Grace 4 years ago from San Francisco

      @TrezNafien: You're welcome. Nice to "meet" you!

    • ecogranny profile image
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      Kathryn Grace 4 years ago from San Francisco

      @getmoreinfo: Thank you for stopping by, GetMore. You are the very first to comment on this brand new page, and that's always a little thrill in itself!

    • profile image

      TrezNafien 4 years ago

      I love your helpful winter tips! Thank you for sharing with us all!

    • profile image

      A-Marie 4 years ago

      Putting on flannel pj's and snuggling in bed.

    • SandraWilson LM profile image

      SandraWilson LM 4 years ago

      My best tip is sit with a cat on your lap while awake and sleep with someone else at night. The last is really good if they are the type to put off lots of heat when asleep.

    • profile image

      getmoreinfo 4 years ago

      I can appreciate this information very much about keeping the heat in and the heating bill low

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