How To Slash Your Heating Bill

By Tuesday, December 23, 2008 10 0

Tomorrow I’ll write about living successfully with others — skills that can enable us to save tens of thousands of dollars over our lifetimes while also slashing the emissions that drive global warming. (It will be a follow-up to my guest post appearing today at Get Rich Slowly).

Today, tips on reducing our heating bills. The overriding principle is to focus on keeping people warm, not keeping space or stuff warm per se.

  • Install a programable thermostat and set it so the heat is only on when you’re both in the house and awake. This is the most powerful single thing you can do to burn less fuel and save on your heating bill. Our heating bill dropped swiftly and significantly 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 way down 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 or 68 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 fleece socks for warmth plus Teva 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 focused on 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 intend 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.
  • 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 Living Beautifully, Frugally.

  • 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.
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...
  • Vic
    December 19, 2009

    Thank for sharing !

  • Trent
    December 18, 2009

    Thank for information.

  • Luxury Fireplaces
    July 7, 2009

    Interesting read Alison thanks very much. So simple just to buy a cheap fleece for £10 and keep active. We’ll see if my heating bill is reduced due to your helpful advice.

  • Laura
    December 30, 2008

    Our new house has a lot of single-pane windows in it, which make it a real “pane” to heat. We plan to replace them with double-pane windows once the weather is warm enough. Closing the blinds/curtains over windows when they’re not in use and not looking at the sun also helps.

  • Alison
    December 28, 2008

    Thanks for the additional tips, folks!

  • Deb
    December 28, 2008

    You’re right, a programmable thermostat is an excellent investment - we reduced our oil heat consumption 30% by doing this. Same routine as yours, and down to 55 degrees at night. Investing in a good down comfortor is also worth the money.

    I can’t recall the source, but I read that water heaters can account for up to 25% of one’s electricity/gas use. We are saving for a tankless hot water heater, which can run anywhere from $600-$1000, depending on the capacity needed. These water heaters reduce energy use by heating water as it comes through the pipe, instead of keeping a large tank of water heated. They are fairly small, wall mounted units.

    Excellent suggestions, Alison - especially about closing vents & doors in rarely used rooms. In a larger home, this can make a real impact!

  • Topher
    December 27, 2008

    While saving energy by closing off your laundry room or cabinets, make sure you don’t do such a good job of keeping heat out of them that the pipes freeze. My folks had to keep the doors beneath their kitchen cabinets OPEN on really cold nights for exactly this reason. It takes warm air circulating against those walls to keep the pipes in the walls thawed.

  • Rob
    December 23, 2008

    Being Minnesota native, wearing layers is always a must. I remember how painful I thought it was to have the thermostat set to 60F during the winter. Chopping wood didn’t seem so painful when it meant maybe 65F+ Also keeping all of those spent cobs from the fall sweet corn 😉

  • Vince Scordo
    December 23, 2008

    Nice post. On sealing your fireplace, you actually don’t need to buy a set of fireplace doors; I actually cut a slice of R30 insulation (stuff used for walls and ceilings) to fit my fireplace flu. I usually don’t light a fire from say, Nov - Feb so it stays in place for about 4 months. As you said, fireplaces are notoriously not efficient!

    Vince from a practical living blog

  • the weakonomist
    December 23, 2008

    We’ve always kept the thermastat low. I much prefer the warmth of many blankets than the sweaty heat generated by warm air. I’m also a big proponant of the hooded sweatshirt, which when used properly, keeps the whole body warm.

    We also keep door liners at each entry to the house which keeps cold air from getting in to the house.

    I must admit we do this to save money instead of the planet, but reduced emissions is a great side effect.