How to Lower Your Winter Heating Bill

Woman turns on fireplace for warmth

Even though at this point we may be looking more toward spring, there are a few weeks left yet of winter.  And with unrest in the Middle East being a daily topic on the news, you may be getting nervous if your home relies on petroleum-based heat such a fuel oil or propane.  But let’s face it, even if you use electric heat, it ’aint cheap!

The good news is that there are literally hundreds of ways you can help cut your home energy bill.  Clearly, we don’t have the space to cover them all, so we’ll offer a few things that will make the most impact on your wallet this winter.  Also take a look at our energy efficiency guide for more great ideas on how to save money and keep comfortable year round.

Passive Solar Heat Gain

Probably the best piece of advice you’ll get from the experts is, heat your home with the sun’s help.  Open windows, drapes and blinds when the sun is out, allow the light to take some of the burden off your furnace / heater. Solar gain can help raise the internal temperatures of your house and lower winter heating costs.  Homes that adhere to passive solar building design can can see heating bills reduced by almost 30% .

Lower Your Thermostat

Second, set your thermostat as low as you can stand it!  Wear warm, insulated clothes to feel more comfortable.  Some of you may remember President Jimmy Carter wearing his sweater during his Presidential addresses, and his decision to lower the White House temperature to 55 Degrees at night and 65 during the day to encourage Americans to save energy. Long story short, if you live in the Northeast and you can walk around your home comfortably in a tank top and shorts, you’re wasting money!

As we are now in the late winter and will soon be on into early spring, lowering your heat down to 50 during the day when you are not home or at work can help lower your heating bill.  When away, or even at home, don’t forget to open the drapes or blinds on those sunny days.

Alternate Heat Source

Consider a wood stove or fireplace insert.  If you don’t have one installed, think about getting one.  Wood is infinitely less expensive than fuel oil and electricity, and wood burning inserts heat far more efficient than a traditional fireplace.  Another added benefit of wood stoves is you will always have a heat source if power is knocked out during an ice storm or other severe weather.

Seal Windows & Drafts

If you don’t have thermal windows, consider installing them.  The layer of air between the windows acts as insulation and helps keep the heat inside your home.  If that’s outside your budget, a typical substitute for this is to install plastic film over your windows, being sure to adequately seal the edges.  Plastic film insulation kits are available at most hardware stores and big box home improvement stores in the form of window insulation kits.  All that is needed is a utility knife and a regular blow-dryer.

Speaking of windows, drafts take a terrible toll on your heating bill!  Check the seals around your windows and install weather stripping if necessary.  If your windowpanes are puttied, be sure to give them fresh putty to seal up any cracks or holes.

Home Layout & Furniture

A good tip here and something that might not even occur to most of us; wherever possible, move furniture away from any exterior walls.  This puts a little space between you and the cold walls & windows, and it actually makes the house seem warmer.  Ironically, leaving room for the air to move around, in effect, does actually raise room temperature, especially if your couch is blocking radiators or heat vents.

Water Heaters

Something else we don’t think about much either – our water heaters!  Experts recommend turning down the temperature on water heaters to between 115 and 120 degrees (most are set to 140).  You’ll enjoy some savings on your heating bill and still have plenty of hot water in the house.

If you have it in the budget, consider changing out your old water heater for a tank-less water heater.  Some models are up to 98% efficient, and the advantage is that you don’t have to keep re-heating the same water all day long.  With Most models the water may take a short while to turn hot, but once flowing, your hot water won’t run out, this is especially nice in a large family!

So, now all you have to do is put some of  these energy saving tips in practice and you can start saving money on your heating bill!  Remember, making even small changes can have an impact on your heat bill.  Start small if needed, save larger changes such as replacing a furnace or water heater when your budget allows.  There are many qualified local plumbing & heating companies in our area that can give you good advice and help you budget and plan.  For more resources, information and tips, be sure to read our energy efficiency guide in our Sacandaga real estate section.