It seems like heating bills keep going up, up, up these days. With home energy costs constantly on the rise, how can you stay warm and comfortable without breaking the bank? Here are some tips on staying warm while you keep your heat bill as low as possible.
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Beat high home heating costs with these simple tips
Let's break this down into two categories to make it easier: changing habits and home improvements.
Easy habit changes to stay warm and lower your heating costs.
Dress for the weather. Dress in layers, wear long sleeves instead of short, and get out those sweaters and slippers. Years ago in college, one of my husband's roommates was in the habit of wearing shorts in the winter and then turning up the heat in the apartment. Once the other roommates spotted this behavior, they quickly called him out on the practice.
Stay cozy at night with the right blankets. Make sure you have enough blankets on your bed for the evening temperatures. Maybe you invest in an electric blanket or a down comforter? If you stick with a more lightweight comforter year round, perhaps you add a blanket underneath in the winter, or put flannel sheets on the bed.
Use those curtains. Insulated curtains make all the difference, both in cooler and warmer temps. In the winter, open curtains during the day where your windows get direct sunlight so you can capture the heat of the sun. Then close them later in the day and overnight to keep that heat inside. If you've got windows that don't get direct sunlight, consider keeping them closed longer to retain that heat.
Insulate your windows. A friend of mine who lives in Michigan swears by those inexpensive sealing kits where you essentially shrink-wrap your windows using a special clear, insulating film and a hair dryer. They're available for less than $20 in a kit that covers multiple windows (like this Rolled Shrink Film Window Kit from Duck Brand), and you still get light through those windows.
Block drafts. Use weather stripping to seal gaps around doors, and check your door sweeps at the bottom. Silicone weather stripping doesn't compress (and eventually stay compressed) like foam does, making it a great choice. You can get a roll of this for less than $15 at the home improvement stores or online. Did you know a ⅛-inch gap around a door is like having a softball-sized hole in the wall? That's a lot of cold air!
While we're at it, you can also block drafts at the base of doors with a "draft blocker." If you don't want to buy one ready-made, just roll up a towel and keep it in place at the base of your door with a small weight. You should also use rugs to warm up tile or hardwood floors and keep your feet warmer.
Run in-home exhaust fans only when needed. This goes for your hood fan in the kitchen as well as bathroom fans. Turn them off when they've done the job so they don't pump precious warm air outside. You might even consider installing a timer in the bathroom if that would help forgetful family members.
Adjust the thermostat lower at night or when you're away. The U.S. Department of energy tells us we could save as much as 10% on our heating bills by lowering the thermostat back for eight hours a day. A programmable thermostat can save a ton of money if you set it for lower temperatures when you're out of the house or sleeping. If you don't have a programmable thermostat, this can be a manual change - you could even set a reminder on your phone so you don't forget! While we're at it, make sure your heat registers are unblocked by furniture and drapes so the heat actually makes it into your room.
Reverse those ceiling fans. If you have a ceiling fan, remember that heat rises and cold air falls. So flip the switch on your fans to run them in reverse in the winter, pushing warm air back down from the ceiling. Make sure you're running them on a low speed when you do this to avoid creating a draft.
Close the flue. Do you have a wood-burning fireplace? Make sure your flue is closed when it's not in use. Otherwise that's like having a window wide open and creates frigid air inside.
Change your furnace filters on schedule. Change furnace filters every 90-days or so during the winter, or even monthly, depending on the type of filter you use. Don't make your furnace work harder than it needs to by pushing air through a dusty, dirty filter.
Get your furnace tuned up once a year. Stay up-to-date on your furnace inspection and tune-up. It's like doing regular oil changes on the car. Your furnace tech will make sure it's working properly and check for anything that is wearing out or breaking - which can help you head off costly (and cold) repairs.
Lower heating bills with these simple home improvements.
Check your insulation and add or replace if necessary. The cost of adding insulation can vary widely, but proper insulation on your home is the best way to be efficient with both heating and cooling. You should consider all the places where you might need it - the crawlspace and attic are the most common areas. If your existing insulation looks like it needs replacing, start planning for that in your budget. (Use a sinking fund to save up.)
Consider insulating the garage, too. Our kids' rooms are right above the garage, which was insulated on the walls but not at the doors. A $100 kit insulated each door quickly and easily, and made a noticeable difference in the temperature in their rooms... and as you walked across their carpeted floors. It also keeps our water heater warmer, which means it doesn't have to work as hard.
Did you know you can also insulate drafty outlets and light switches on exterior walls? Take a look at inexpensive high-density foam gaskets. They're simple to install and can make a difference.
Look into getting a home energy audit. Some utilities offer this service for free and will send someone out to walk around your home and give you customized tips on how you can save energy in various places. In our area, the heating utility doesn't do this anymore but instead has a useful website that compares our energy usage to other similarly sized homes in the area. Then it breaks down what we could do, area by area, to improve our numbers and save on our bills.
Heating a home typically costs more money and uses more energy than any other system in the home, according to the U.S. Department of Energy. Taking some proactive steps can help you lower your costs and stay comfortable in the colder months.