12 Ways To Lower Heating Bill This Winter

Looking for ways to lower heating bill? You’re far from the only one. According to PBS, “roughly one in six American households are behind on utility bills, as energy prices surge across the U.S. to the highest level in nearly 15 years.”1 Dramatic inflationary pressures mean you’ll have to get creative about staying warm and cozy without breaking the bank.

So, while you can’t control natural gas prices, you can improve the way your home maintains heat and how you use it. We spoke to home and energy pros for their expert tips—from bigger investments to simple swaps—for saving on the ever-dreaded mid-winter heating bill.

Service Your Appliances

Sometimes you have to spend to save. At least, that can be the case when trying to lower your heating bill. Dan DiClerico, the Home Improvement & Outdoor Director at Good Housekeeping, recommends paying a professional to inspect your furnace each year. This can cost between $80 and $200, but you’ll find out whether anything needs your attention, which could save you from a more costly repair later on.

Another green solution is to switch to a solar heating system. The initial costs of installation are large, but long-term residents reap huge rewards, including tax credits.2 Don’t wait for the entire system to fail to plan for a replacement.

Clean Your Heating System

If an overhaul isn’t in your budget, a much cheaper but still effective option is to clean the heating system, including ductwork and filters. Every HVAC system is different, but the filters must be changed periodically for the entire system to function well. Thinner filters need seasonal replacement, but larger systems may be able to go six to nine months without a change. “New filters won’t save a lot of money, but you’ll usually break even,” DiClerico says. “That, and overall your unit will work more efficiently and ultimately last longer.”

It can also pay to have someone look at your duct work. Fixing leaks in duct work requires a professional but can save hundreds of dollars a year, DiClerico says. “We know that as much as 30% of heated air is lost to leaks in ductwork,” he adds.3 So, don’t delay this important maintenance work.

Seal Air Leaks

“Think of your home as an envelope and make sure to seal all cracks,” says Jeff Starkey, the vice president of Atlas Butler, a heating, cooling and plumbing company in Columbus, Ohio. “Feel for drafts around pipes, doors, windows, and electrical and cable outlets,” says Anne Marie Corbalis, spokesperson for Con Edison. Inexpensive draft stoppers and outlet sealers can fix many of these problem areas. “Make sure your window stripping and door stripping are in good condition too. When it gets cold out, these types of building materials shrink,” Starkey adds.

“You can pay a professional to come in and seal cracks around windows and doors for about $250, or plan to spend a weekend doing it yourself,” DiClerico says.

You’ll also want to make sure your home’s overall insulation is working well. “If your home was built before 1980, it’s more likely to need an upgrade,” DiClerico says. You’ll know you have an insulation problem if snow melts quickly off your roof and creates lots of icicles. According to the EPA, sealing up these cracks can save an average of 15% on heating and cooling costs.4

Cover the Windows

The Department of Energy reports that “about 30% of a home’s heating energy is lost through windows.”5 Of course, if the windows are old and warped, you’ll want to get new ones before the worst of the snow and freezing rain starts. These days, it can take weeks and even months to get windows ordered and installed, so now is the time to get started.

If you’re not ready for a replacement, though, thermal curtains can help to hold you over. Floor-length window coverings can block cold air from seeping through the windows and can stop indoor heat from escaping. They usually have two to four layers of fabric, including a center panel of insulated foam. If you don’t want to sacrifice light, try Low-E window film to effectively add another layer of insulation. These thin films acts as a shield—blocking heat as it tries to escape through the windows and reflecting it back inside.

Lower the Thermostat

Lowering your thermostat by a few degrees can add up to big savings. According to the Department of Energy, turning down the thermostat by 7 to 10 degrees for up to 8 hours can help you save up to 10% on your annual energy bill.6 Also, turn the heating down to the lowest bearable level at night, while you’re out at work, or when you’re on vacation. However, in some places, you don’t want to turn it off completely or the pipes could freeze and burst.

To save yourself the hassle of constantly adjusting the temperature, you can invest in a programmable or smart thermostat that can automatically adjust the temperature according to your needs.

Renters beware that many of the energy controls in your building or home may require your landlord’s permission. In some apartments, you may need to work with building maintenance to determine if your unit can be controlled separately from others. If you’re renting a stand-alone home, discuss major upgrades with your landlord before touching anything that would affect the water, gas, and electricity to the home.

Consider the Fireplace

Using your wood-burning fireplace is a great way to get warm this winter and save money. According to the Department of Energy, the “thermal energy from the burning of wood radiates directly into the room, keeping it up to 10 degrees warmer than the rest of the home without using any electricity.”7 Lower energy usage means greater savings for you, while still gleaming the benefits.

Additionally it’s important to close your fireplace up when it’s not in use. “If you have a real fireplace, don’t forget to close the flue and damper when not in use,” says Lauren Urbanek of the Natural Resources Defense Council. Aside from inviting pests into your home, they allow hot air to escape and cold air to sneak in. You can also hire a pro to make sure your chimney is properly sealed.

Use a Humidifier

A humidifier might help keep you warm without raising your heating bill quite so dramatically. “We try to get the humidity out of our house in the summer time because water holds heat,” Starkey says. “In the winter, we want to do the opposite: put humidity in the air.” Corbalis adds that moist air feels warmer than dry air, so you can keep your thermostat on a lower setting when you run a humidifier. This will also reduce pesky static electricity along with your heating bill.

Strategically Open and Close Your Blinds

When the sun comes out in the winter, don’t let it go to waste. The heat from the sun can actually warm up your home. The Department of Energy advises to open up south-facing windows in your home to let optimal sunshine in. If you’re a homeowner, they also recommend planting a deciduous tree beside your south-facing window as a natural way to manage your home’s temperature: in the summer, the tree will keep the window shaded, and in the winter, it will allow sunshine to come in.8

But, don’t forget to draw the blinds at night to help insulate your home from the colder evening air. Subtle habit changes like this can add up to help reduce the overall cost of your energy bill.

Don’t Block Air Flow

If you’ve been thinking about rearranging the furntiure in your home, now may be the time. Make sure you don’t have any furniture or items covering the radiators or vents. This will make sure that air is able to flow easily and heat can spread throughout the room. Be sure to also keep radiators and vents clean and free of debris to ensure they’re able to work at full capacity.

See If Your Provider Offers “Budget Billing”

Check to see if your utility provider will estimate your bill and usage. “Many utilities also offer ‘budget billing,’ where they look at your past usage and estimate an average cost for you to pay each month,” Urbanek says. “This will help you budget your monthly costs, but won’t actually save energy or money.” Urbanek says other providers will offer plans based on the time of day when energy is used, with the idea that it’s more expensive to use electricity at peak times where there’s a lot of demand on the system.

Remember, if you’re renting you may not be able to make major changes to your home without affecting the terms of your lease. However, you may be able to switch your service provider to a more affordable option, and you can ask the landlord to seal the windows, doors, and walls for leaks. Try the smaller changes first, before negotiating bigger upgrades.

Get Cozy

Wearing your coziest outfit under a chunky throw blanket can seriously do wonders when in comes to lowering your heating bill. Plus, who could turn down a fluffy pair of wool socks in the winter? By putting on more layers, you can turn down the heat a few extra degrees and still feel comfortable. Make your favorite soup or sip on a hot cup of chamomile tea to keep you warm on the inside too.

Stay in For Dinner

Speaking of whipping up some soup, getting in the kitchen can also be a great way to save money not only on your heating bill, but also on your takeout tab. The heat from your oven and stove while making your favorite chocolate chip cookie recipe will aid in keeping you warm and lessen the workload on your heater.

After you have finished using the oven, turn it off, then keep it cracked open a bit to let the remaining heat out for extra warmth. However, if you have little ones, pets, or are especially prone to accidents, we recommend keeping the oven door shut to avoid injuries.

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