How To Slash Your Heating Bill

By Thursday, October 25, 2012 2 0

This post has gotten thousands of views since I originally put it up in December 2008. It’s definitely the time of year to review how to conserve energy and the money we spend on it.  

The main principle  in slashing home heating bills is to keep people warm, when they are in the house, rather than keeping unoccupied space warm. It’s easy to do the latter, and overspend on heating fuel in the process.

  • Install a programable thermostat and set it so the heat is only on when you’re both in the house and not cozy-warm in bed. This is the most powerful single thing you can do to burn less fuel and save on your heating bill. Our heating bill dropped dramatically after ny non-techie husband installed ours in 15 minutes with a screwdriver. Our heat now goes on 15 minutes before we get up in the morning, and off 15 minutes before the last person leaves for work. Here’s one of many places to buy a programmable thermostat. You can easily override it – but the default needs to be that it dials down to 45 degrees shortly before bedtime and your daily departure to work.
  • Reduce the amount of space you’re heating. This is the second most powerful thing you can do to slash your heating bill. If you seldom use a room during the winter (a back bedroom or heated basement, for example), simply close its heating vent. Then remember to keep its door shut. Our laundry room is in our basement, but we never heat it. We just zip in to handle laundry, and zip back out.
  • Wear fleece in the house. Its sweet caresss against the skin and comfort quotient just can’t be beat, in my book. And it enables us to happily keep the thermostat at 67 degrees.
  • Generate your own body heat by being active rather than sedentary. Remember, the goal is to keep you warm, not necessarily the entire house warm. Vacuuming warms me up quickly, especially when I move furniture around. Hanging up clothes to dry rather than using the dryer burns more self-warming calories, and saves a considerable amount on your energy bill over time.
  • Indulge in good, cozy footwear, since much body heat gets lost through the feet. I wear alpaca-fleece socks for warmth plus sandals for grip on our hardwood floors. In general, if we have bare feet, bare arms or bare legs indoors in the wintertime, we’re overspending on heating because we’re not keeping the person warm.
  • Keep drawers and closet and cupboard doors closed. If they’re open, you’re paying to keep them warm. Do you really want to do that? Don’t forget to close the doors to the microwave, washer, dryer, toy chest and clothes hampers. A bed skirt helps to avoid heating the space under the bed.
  • If you work from home during the day you can use an electric space heater to heat just your workspace and dial back that programable thermostat.  I do this on the two days per week that I telework (I carpool on the days that I commute).
  • Install insulation. We installed ours in the crawl-spaces in our attic in autumn 2005, and the difference was swift and certain. The house now heats up faster (using less fuel), and takes longer to lose its heat. The reverse is true is summer. Insulation is a good investment.
  • Tightly seal around doors and windows. You can use old towels right now to stop drafts around a leaky door or window. Caulking for around windows and doors, new weatherstripping and door sweeps (they seal the bottom of exterior doors) are available at most supermarkets and are cheap and easy to install. Here is a good hands-on account of weatherizing a lovely, drafty old home from Christine at A Good Life.
  • Seal that fireplace. While it’s cozy to sit around a crackling fire, fireplaces are notorious for pulling the heated air out of a room and sending it up the chimney even especially when in use. A fireplace store will sell you doors you can use to seal up that “hole in the wall” when it’s not in use.
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  • Alison
    October 26, 2012

    Good tips, Colleen, thanks. My carpool partner Cory also swears by his wood-burning stove.

  • Colleen
    October 25, 2012

    I like these tips! Another “saver: not on the list: many wood stoves these days (like ours) can heat an entire house when placed correctly in a central location. The cost is low (the wood) but the “labor” is higher than gas or electric heating. A good fire needs attention about every 3 hours. But even a fire that burns out overnight is actually quite practical — the house is warm already when you go to bed, and as the house cools slowly, you’re asleep under warm blankets. It also works to close doors to unused rooms (which we do) to maximize the wood stove’s output of heat. Added bonus — you can heat soup, water for tea, etc., on top for no extra cost!