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Eleven Ways We are Going to Save Money on Heating Costs This Winter

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In our neck of the woods, winters are a bit rough. We get over 200 inches of snow (sometimes over 300!) a winter and the temps are often in the single digits. That means our heating bills are often higher than I’d like so we try to do what we can to get them down a bit. Here’s our gameplan:

Turn the Heat Down – I have read from multiple places that it is recommended that your thermostat should be set at 68° F. Our goal will be to have it at 63° F during the day when my husband and I are home and my son is at school. Some say that lowering the termostat by 1° F can reduce the amount of energy you use to heat your home by one to three percent. Since we are lowering it by five degrees, we’ll hopefully save a bit more. When my son gets home, it will increase to 66° F degrees.

Use Our Programmable Thermostat – Anytime you ask people for something that you can do to save on heating costs, installing a programmable thermostat is one of the first things mentioned. We purchased one last year and it helped a lot. Before the programmable thermostat, I would manually turn down the heat at night and quite a few times I’d go to bed and forget to turn it down. Having it automatically switch is very nice.

Clean Our Furnace Filter Monthly – I never think about that darn filter downstairs. But this winter, we are going to mark change dates on the calendar so we make sure it is changed. A clean furnace filter results in a happy, efficient furnace.

Keep Doors Closed – Thanks to our in-laws, we have some nice new doors to get us through this winter. Last year was horrible! I mean, I was sticking plastic bags in the door to try to keep the draft out (thanks again to the reader who gave me that tip!). Our doors are now very air tight. But we still should limit how much they are opened.

Use Plastic on Windows – Our downstairs windows are newer and great for keeping the cold out. We are fortunate there. Upstairs, though, the windows are quite old and very drafty. We have to use plastic on them or we’d feel the cold draft while sleeping. To save on the costs, I usually purchase plastic (the kind you tape up and then use a blowdryer to shrink) for the windows at the end of the season for the next winter. I can often get the plastic we need for our windows for $1.25 that way. Unfortunately, at the end of last season I forgot to grab more plastic because I thought we still had some left. But we don’t. This winter I had to pay full cost which ran $14.

Caulk Around Windows – Because we were involved in installing our new doors this summer, I was able to see how doors are put in. I see how much potential there is for drafts to come in around the trim if the door trim area is not properly insulated. Looking around our windows, there is a little bit of a gap around the trim and the wall and I will caulk around the windows and eliminate those gaps.

Dress Warmer – In college, we had a neighbor that would run around his apartment in winter in only a pair of shorts. His heat was cranked up to 80 degrees. I wish I would have asked how much he was paying for the heat; I’m sure it was a lot. For us, we are going to dress warmer in the house during our waking hours. That means wearing pants and long sleeved shirts and sweaters.

Use Blankets – I have our heat programmed to start decreasing for the night at 8:00 pm. My son goes to bed at 8:00 pm and although mom and dad stay up for a few hours after that, we will have to use a blanket if we are sitting there watching TV or working on the computer. We have about four little throw blankets that we’ve accumulated throughout the years that we can use for this purpose. Usually it isn’t that bad because our home keeps heat in surprisingly well.

Use Flannel Sheets – Some people swear by an electric blanket. Me? It makes me very uncomfortable to even think of sleeping with one. Instead, I bring out my cozy flannel sheets. They keep me nice and toasty.

Use the Ceiling Fan – We have one ceiling fan in our house in the kitchen. It’s natural to think of using it in the summer for cooling. But something I didn’t know too much about was that you should use it in the winter as well. The heat in your home rises, so if you have your ceiling fan on it will help circulate the heat and you will feel warmer. For it to work properly, set your fan on low and have it draw the air up instead of down.

Pay Attention to Windows – During the day, we are going to let the sun shine in and take advantage of the nice placement of our home. They were very smart back then (I just found out my home is definitely over 100 years old!). At night we will shut the curtains to keep the cold night air away. I wish I could thank those that built our house and set it the direction they did.

With the rising gas costs this winter, it will be interesting to see if our average bill will be lower than last year. It would make my day if we didn’t have any month over $150 this winter (last winter, our highest monthly bill was $178). I know doing the above will help, but exactly how much is up in the air. I will be paying very close attention to how much gas we end up using and near the end of the winter I’ll post a graph showing this year versus last year.


35 Comments

  • Reply maureen |

    I wish you the best of luck in your endeavors.

    Personally, I could never live in a house kept that cold. Even wearing jeans and sweaters and curled up under a blanket, I am not comfortable in less than 72 degress.

    One tip I picked up for staying warm when I was in Germany and heating costs were astronomical was to use a hot water bottle. It works as well as an electric blanket for a fraction of the energy cost.

  • Reply Jennifer |

    Wow! I am the 80 degree girl in there. I spend $500 a year heating my house… What about silk or satin sheets. Oh…I love them. I can’t take them off my bed.

    I use blankets too. I dress warmer because I go outside.

    I want to get a automatic thermostat though, I have read about them before.

  • Reply Dawn |

    We live in Iowa and have some cold winters as well.
    *Something else that we do that might help is to roll up some old blankets or larger bath towels to make a sort of draft dodger for the bottom of the doors. They can really help.
    *Opening up window coverings on the sunny side of the house when the sun is out and keeping the other window coverings closed helps too.
    *This isn’t really pretty … but can help a bit too … bag up your leaves and pile the bags around your house foundation to block wind. (in the spring you can compost them).
    *This one might sound silly … but if you like candles … it is amazing the heat one of those 3-4 wick 6″ diameter ones can put out.
    Every little bit helps in those long cold winters!

  • Reply Patrick |

    Great tips. My wife and I do many of these, but I think we leave the thermostat around 66-67. If we have family or other visitors, we will turn the heat up. 🙂

  • Reply Matt |

    Thats a great list Tricia, I’ve always found that if I turn the thermostat down overnight I sleep better.

    A 100 year old house – wow those are houses with character, other than the new doors how’s the insulation on the place?

  • Reply Tricia |

    The insulation on the original part of the house is great. About 15 years ago, someone added blown in insulation so I’m sure that helps. Now, the additions to the house that someone added years ago are horrible! They do not keep heat well at all.

    Unfortunately, my house doesn’t have that much character. There’s a whole bunch of them the exact same since they are old copper mining company houses. I tell ya, though…they are built solid (well, except for the additions that someone else put in).

  • Reply Mar |

    Great list. We heat with oil, which is just skyrocketing, so I’m definitely taking additional steps this year as well. I like the house cool, but my daughter doesn’t, so we need to compromise a bit there. We’ll still be in the mid-60ies when we’re home and around 60 overnight. Love the programmable thermostat we have! I’m updating the weather stripping around our storm doors and doing the caulking thing as well.

    On the other hand, I’m curious to see what type of winter we have. Here in Maryland, it’s been in the 70ies and 80ies almost all of October and very dry, although we’re finally getting some steady rain today, which is a really good thing. We need it! At the rate we’re going, we may not even have winter!

  • Reply Marie |

    I had the unfortunate luck to be living in a rental property one year and have the furnace go completely out – no heat at all in January. The landlords refused to fix the furnace, claiming there was no clause in my lease that stated I would be provided access to a furnace. I was in my early 20s, so I didn’t have the sense to sue those crooks (they still make me mad, ugh!), and I made the best of living with no heat through an Illinois winter. It was *miserable*, but the one thing that did make it at least livable was a device called the “Vornado.” It’s a space heater that blows a ton of air as well, so the heat gets circulated constantly. It’s not expensive to run and it really heats up a room quickly. I still turn on the Vornado on cool days in my office rather than run the furnace, or to warm up my bedroom before I go to bed. It’s still saving me money.

  • Reply Kevin |

    Wow! If it was a choice between putting food on the table or heating our home, I’d do what you are doing. But otherwise, no way. I hate being in a cold house. I applaud your efforts to increase efficiency and keep the heat in, but turning the thermostat down to 63 in the day time. Burr!

    Why not just shut the heat off altogether and live in your parkas all winter long? Think of the money you’ll save!

  • Reply Tricia |

    Can’t shut the heat off all together. That wouldn’t be fun and I wouldn’t do that with my son.

    There are some days where we will have to up the heat a bit. Especially if the sun is a no show. But the other day our home heated up quite nicely with the sun shining in. I was very toasty in my office with the sun and my pets in my bedroom with me.

    When fingers or noses get cold…we will turn the heat up. 63 degrees is a base line and we’ll go from there.

  • Reply mapgirl |

    I wear socks religiously and slippers. And I also have fingerless mitts for my hands when I’m at work or home and typing on a keyboard. It helps reduce muscle strain by keeping my hands warm and I feel warmer in general.

  • Reply booklover |

    Don’t forget herbal tea! I am shocked by how much a cup of tea really warms me up and helps me not notice a cold apartment.

    I also recommend fleece socks/slippers. They make them with sticky rubber bottoms so they would be safe for munchkins.

    When I get really desperate, I also have a non-itchy scarf and baseball hat I wear while watching tv. Of course cleaning also keeps me warm, but who wants to do that? 🙂

  • Reply silver |

    I’d love to turn the heat down at night, because I sleep better. But I have a 6 month old son, and if it’s 68 or colder in his room, he doesn’t sleep well (even with fleece jammies). If I got a cool to the touch space heater for his room to keep it at 70 and let the rest of the house be 65 at night, would the cost of electric to run the space heater eat up any gas cost savings? It would have to be running 8-12 hours each night.

  • Reply Tricia |

    My experience with space heaters is that they really suck electricity. I’m not sure if there are more cost friendly ones to run (mine was a $15.00 one from Walmart, I believe).

    Something we did with our son when he was younger is cut off the heat to my room and keep his heat vent open during the day. Since the heat to our bedrooms is split into the two rooms, I figured shutting off the one vent would help keep his room warmer. It did help. We also positioned his bed near the heater vent and he loves the fleece jammies.

  • Reply Jason |

    We use an electric space heater with thermostat in our daughter’s room, which is above the garage, which despite being fully insulated, still gets cold. It’s oil-filled, self-contained and has a timer. We used it all last winter and didn’t notice a significant uptick in the electric bill. We found that the lowest setting (200 watts?) or medium setting (500 watts?) were more than sufficient to keep the room warm. Since the heater heats up the oil, it still provides heat even when the element is not on.

    We also get some brown, ropy insulation (mortite?) — it’s with the weatherstripping — that we put around our windows to seal off drafts. It works pretty well and comes off the window easily in the spring.

  • Reply Cat's Staff |

    Here in Minnesota it can get down to -40 on occasion in the winter. I’m cheap (and poor, which works out good). I set the thermostat to 58 degrees F, and dress warm. In my computer room the temp can get up to 65 if the wind isn’t blowing to hard. I usually set the temp up a couple degrees if I know guests are coming over. Did night caps ever go out of style?

  • Reply Gretchen |

    71 when we’re home, 66 when we’re asleep or gone, made a world of difference to not have to remember to switch it myself!

    As for the baby, is he in more than one pair of fleece PJ’s? This is something I didn’t think of untell I saw my cousin putting her little girl to bed, but put on a onesy or other tight fitting outfit, and then the fleece jammy. I still do this with my toddler because she still rolls out from under the blankets.

  • Reply Kyle @ Rather-Be-Shopping |

    Great tips, we do quite a few of them. Fortunately, I have a very effieient wood burning stove and get most of my wood for free. Rarely do we have the heater on, but it does not get nearly as cold as in your neck of the woods. I really like the wood burning stove because it warms the entire house equally.

  • Reply boomie |

    We all use electric blankets at night. I lower the thermostat to 62 degrees and DH and I use our dual control electric blanket, along with our down-filled comforter (which I buy new every 10 years in the middle of a summer when they are on huge discount from http://www.companystore.com)

    Sleep in comfort. I have another electric throw that I use while watching TV.

    Live in comfort. Electricity is cheaper than oil or propane in our neck of the woods. And the blankets use very little electricity.

  • Reply Britta |

    I’m amazed at people’s temperature ranges. We keep the house at 60. Sweaters and sometimes a light knit cap. I’m a WI girl and I’d think this was common in the UP, too. Just goes to show what’s normal for one person is not for another!

  • Reply Joyes |

    I find that if my ears are warm, I’m warm so ear muffs are my best friend from the cool nippy days of autumn til the cool nippy days of spring.

  • Reply pam |

    Wow – I thought I was doing good by turning the thermostat down to 68. That’s my limit.

    I crawled up into the attic this fall, and caulked around the light fixtures and bathroom fans. They all had about a 1/8 – 1/4 inch gap. One had a 1/2 inch gap that I stuff a little fiberglass insulation into.

    My next step is to buy foam insulators for the electrical outlets and light switches located on exterior walls.

    My heating bill is about 10% lower than it was this time last year, however, it is a little warmer this year.

  • Reply Jackie |

    These are some great ideas.
    I use hot water bottles, and switch to fluorescent light bulbs and night lights, while we are on the topic of saving money.
    Take baths after my kids… turned down the water heater, use duct tape to cover outlets on outside walls. Going to try to see if we can live with the thermostat at 68 or lower… with socks slippers, robes, hot water bottles and blankets,I think we can do it.
    my bills are really edging down with a little effort. The extra money has to go to my student loan payoff goal! what fun!

  • Reply Jecilly |

    Wow! These are some great tips…I’m actually planning on printing it out and keeping it where I sit and study during the day. As I was reading your tips, I was going around my apartment, setting down the heat, opening the windows, putting socks on my feet…We did not even turn our heat/ac on last month and our bill was 56 dollars-3 yrs ago-the same month was 19 dollars!! 3 yrs is not so long ago! I want to bring our bill down as much as possible this winter. I had always thought about increasing the heat while we sleep-but i realize your idea is right-turn it down, we’re under the covers anyway! I do use an electric room heater (LASKO) frm Walmart-r u sure it sucks up the bill?!! I didnt know that either-and was using it religiously the past week! YIKES! Anyway, Thank you for all ur tips…i’m sure to use it this winter…hopefully it will help my bill from going too high.

  • Reply julia tilley |

    It is cheaper to run an electric heater in one room then to turn up the heat in the whole house. So your Walmart heater will help lower your heating bills ONLY if it allows you to lower the house thermostat. Has anyone tried putting homemade suncatchers in their windows?

  • Reply lznvlpf |

    That’s why it is better for beginners to learn from those who have walked the path already, not those who have only theoretically walked the path whose knowledge consists of what “should” be.

  • Reply mandi |

    I hate going places where the heat is kept up higher than 70 or 71 degrees. It’s winter people. I love wearing my sweaters and boots, but then i go to your house and am sweating!

  • Reply Sean |

    We put the insulation / humidity control and draught-exclusion a little closer to the bed this winter and made some temporary four poster canopies. It was cosy enough inside for me to forego my old fleece balaclava (I’m not as well thatched as I was!) with a bedroom temperature of 10C/50F.

So, what do you think ?