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Winter Savings Series - learn ways that you can cut the cost of heating your house this winter.

How to Save Money on Heating Bills

by Katie Cullum

woman's hands holding hot cup of tea
You don't have to freeze at home to save money but a warm drink certainly doesn't hurt!

With this cold snap coming (or already here - brrrrrrr!), you may be wondering about how it will affect your heating bill!  But you don't have to wrap up all the time at home to stay warm.  Here are some ways to cut your heating bills this winter.

Nearly half (49%) of homes in the U.S. use natural gas to heat their homes. Thirty-four percent use electricity.  Heating your home uses up to 42% of your utility bill - more than any other system in your home.  So it can pay big dividends to be efficient!

  • Maintain your system and upgrade as necessary.  
  • Use a whole-house approach instead of thinking only about the heating system. Building a new house or doing a major remodel are the best times to think about the whole house approach.  This can help you think about your house with many different interdependent parts - and each part can affect the whole house. It also takes into consideration the occupants, the site, and local climate.  You can learn more about the whole-house approach from the U.S. Department of Energy site.
  • Clean or replace filters on furnaces once a month, or as recommended.
  • Clean registers, baseboard heaters, and radiators as needed.  Don't block them with furniture, rugs, or draperies.  
  • Turn off kitchen and bath exhaust fans within 20 minutes after you are done cooking or bathing.  If you replace the exhaust fans, look for high-efficiency, low-noise models.  You'll appreciate the difference!
  • During winter, keep the draperies and shades on your south-facing windows open during the day to allow the sunlight to enter your home and closed at night to reduce the chill you may feel from cold windows.  
  • Look for the ENERGY STAR when considering a new heating system.
    programmable thermostat
    Use a programmable thermostat.
  • Use a programmable thermostat. Set it as low as you comfortably can in the winter and lower it even more when you're not home.  You can save a LOT of money (as much as 10% a year on heating and cooling) just by turning your thermostat back 7-10 degrees F for 8 hours a day.  You can easily save energy in the winter by setting the thermostat to 68°F while you're awake and setting it lower while you're asleep or away from home. A common misconception associated with thermostats (one that I heard about from "experts") is that a furnace works harder than normal to warm the space back to a comfortable temperature after the thermostat has been set back, resulting in little or no savings. In fact, as soon as your house drops below its normal temperature, it will lose energy to the surrounding environment more slowly.
  • Weatherize your home. Get an energy audit, reduce air leakage, increase insulation, etc.  

You may not be able to do some of these right now.  But here are a few tips for staying warm during cold weather that don't require much work!

ceiling fan
A switch on your ceiling fan can help keep your house warm!
  • Move your furniture.  I visited a family often in an older home.  This home's windows were not very efficient.  And the sofa was right in front of the window.  Even though they had plenty of blankets, it was rather chilly.  If that sounds like your house, rearrange!  Pull the sofa out into the room, or move it away from the window completely.  Put a sofa table between the window and the sofa.  You can also add energy-efficient curtains or drapes if you can't get new windows or storm windows anytime soon.
  • Dress in layers.  Start with a light layer - undershirts in cotton or silk may keep you warm.  Then add other layers.  I keep a sweatshirt handy to add when I get cool in the evenings.
  • If you have cold floors, you'll want to keep slippers handy! I also like thick socks. 
  • In the summer, I don't like to heat up the kitchen much.  But in the winter, it feels good!  So use your oven and stove. Bake your main dish (like this Chicken Pot Pie) and bake this peach cobbler after the pie comes out.
  • I also love soup in the winter.  This Southwestern Lentil Soup is pretty easy AND inexpensive.
  • Warm drinks are also warming.  I love to make a cup of hot herbal tea in evenings.  Or hot cider.  Or maybe even some decaf coffee like this homemade Pumpkin Spice Latte.  Or some hot chocolate.  Anything warm feels nice to hold, and warms the inside too.  
  • Reverse your ceiling fans.  Let your ceiling fans run on low clockwise.  This will allow the fan to push the warm air that rises back down.  This is especially helpful if you have high ceilings.
  • Be active inside!  Play games with your kids, do some yoga with the kids, use your Wii Fit, tackle some projects like deep house cleaning.  You'll warm up!  

Good luck staying warm during the cold spells!