Smart Spending

Five Ways to Lower Your Winter Heating Bills

Baby it’s cold outside!  Time to pull out the blankets, snuggle into a comfortable chair and hibernate for the winter.  Right?  Unfortunately, for people like me who are less than enthusiastic about winter weather, life must go on—even when the weather gets below zero. Brrr!

Temps below zero bring big heating bills that can wreak havoc on most people’s budget—particularly those with fixed incomes.  One way to avoid huge jumps in monthly utility expenses is to have your energy company “levelize” your bill, if that is available, in order to keep your budget from bursting its seams every winter.  In addition, the Department of Energy says it’s possible for consumers to save 20% or more on their heating bills by winterizing their home and following these heat saving tips:

  1. Turn Down
    According to the Department of Energy, turning down your thermostat 10 degrees when you’re asleep and at work will save 14% on winter heating bills.  In addition, no one will notice if you turn the water heater temperature to 115-120 degrees and it will cut down on your power bill.
  1. Cover Up
    It’s winter time so wear socks, sweatshirts, and sweaters.  Don’t run around in t-shirt and shorts and adjust the temperature to keep yourself warm.  Cover windows at night with curtains, shades or even blankets to help keep in the heat.  Open the blinds or coverings during the day to help warm up your living area.  Trim any vegetation that shades your windows, particularly windows facing south to let the low angles of the winter sun into your house.  Cover up the entry to your attic with something that will stop the warm air from floating away through your roof.
  1. Turn Off
    Turn off fans in your kitchen and bathroom after they have done their jobs.  Fans expel warm air, according to the Department of Energy.  Leave the door cracked on your oven after cooking and let the heat escape and warm your house.  Open the bathroom door after taking a shower and let the heat warm up adjoining rooms.  Take shorter showers so you reduce the power needed to heat water.  Use a space heater in the room you’re in to keep it comfortable without heating all of the other rooms.
  1. 4.      Close up
    Closing vents in unused rooms will cut 100-200 square feet off the space being heated.  Keep the dampers in fireplaces and glass doors closed when not in use otherwise since heat rises and is sucked out by the open damper.
  1. 5.       Clean up
    Check filters every month.  Clogged furnace filters prevent proper airflow and lower the heater’s efficiency.  Check outside to make sure nothing has been stacked or draped over the unit and hose it down to clear dirt, leaves and grass clippings.  To keep air circulating efficiently inside, ensure your vents are not blocked by rugs and furniture.  The American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy recommends saving 3 to 10% by getting annual tune ups for oil fired boilers and checkups every two years for gas burners.

Of course, the best way to cut your heating bill is to stop heat from escaping by winterizing your house.  Winter maintenance includes everything from caulking cracks in doors and windows to stopping leaks in your ductwork.  We’ll talk about some great tricks for finding and stopping leaks in a coming article.

In the meantime, remember to turn down, cover up, turn off, close up and clean up your way to saving money on your winter bills.