5 Easy Ways to Lower Your Heating Bill

BRRRRR! When I got up today, it was only 47 degrees at my apartment.  Fall is definitely here!  Usually, I like to focus on the fun parts of fall: apple picking, pumpkin carving, trick-or-treating (24 isn’t too old for that, is it?).  This year, though, I am a big girl living on her own so I will also have to think about the not-so-fun parts of fall, like how I will pay to heat my apartment.  I live in a really pretty, old building with two roommates and surprisingly/ awesomely low rent.  The only utility that isn’t included on our lease, however, is heat. So I have been sleuthing the internet, asking around the office, and reading a few home magazines gathering any tips I can find on how to keep my heating bill as small as possible. Here are TOP FIVE best money-saving heat tips I scrounged up:

1. Turn It Down, Not Off – According to Consumer Reports, turning your heat down 5-10 degrees at night or when no one is home can reduce your bill by 20% over the course of the year.  Most thermostats now-a-days are programmable, meaning you can set it so your heat is up when you need it and down when you don’t; it happens automatically, so you can leave the dial alone.  Or if you have an old fashioned thermostat, get it the habit of turning it down every night when you go to bed (maybe set an alarm on your phone to remind you). The key is, don’t let the temperature fluctuate more than 10 degrees. Turning your heat all the way off when you leave home means that you will probably have to turn it on full blast when you return so you don’t freeze your butt off.  This cycle of extreme heat when you’re home and zero heat when you’re gone causes your home to lose all of its warmth when the thermostat is off, and then you have to start from scratch every day. Maintaining a least a little heat at all times will lower your fuel costs in the long run.

window insulation

2. Plug Leaks – This sounds like a plumbing trick, but trust me its not! Your house may not be leaking water, but it might be leaking heat.  The two biggest culprits of letting heat escape from your home: windows and doors.  Here are some steps you can take to keep the warm air in:

  • Buy weatherizing film for old windows.  This cheap plastic can be bought at most hardware stores and it will stop drafty air from sneaking in old, poorly insulated windows.  It’s also easy to install. Visit http://www.lowes.com or http://www.homedepot.com for more info and prices.
  • Seal cracks or gaps in duct work or insulating ducts.  Same goes for any holes/ cracks in walls.  Buy some caulk at the hardware store and seal up all of the leaky spots around your home.  You’d be surprised how much heat can escape from these little gaps.
  • Get foam inserts for electric outlets.  Believe it or not, a lot of air flows in and out of unused outlets.  Buying inexpensive foam plugs will keep your heat in.
  • Make your own draft-stoppers! All you need is a little fabric (buy a small amount or reuse some from old clothes or sheets), sand, and a Ziploc baggy.  Fill the bag up with sand and sew or glue the fabric around the bag.  If you’re like me and you usually mess up the DYI projects you find on Pinterest, you can find cute, inexpensive draft-stoppers on http://www.etsy.com.  Put one of these at every door with a crack at the bottom or up against every chilly window and you’ll keep out the cold air.

3. Bundle Up! – A little common sense goes a long way when it comes to saving on heat.  If it’s chilly around your house, put on another layer! It’s easier (and cheaper) to put on a sweatshirt or wear two pairs of socks than it is to crank the heat up a few degrees.  So get a Snuggie, some big fuzzy slippers, and a hat.  It will make keeping the heat at 65 a lot more manageable than if you wear shorts and a t-shirt.

dog snuggie

4. Get Help – If you’re having trouble figuring out the most efficient, cost-effective way to heat your home, ask a professional.  There’s all sorts of places you can turn to that can help you with heating challenges.  Here’s a few:

  • Service your heating system.  Get a representative from your heating supplier to come check your home for any potential problems and to do a routine cleaning of your filtration system.  A broken or dirty system is less efficient and will cost more to run than clean, well-running system.
  • Find out if you qualify for energy assistance or weatherization help.  A lot of states have programs that help those who qualify pay for heating fuel or for repairs to better weatherize/insulate their homes.  Go online to find out if you are eligible for assistance and what you need to do to apply (for readers in Maine, I found info on energy assistance at http://www.mainehousing.org )
  • Apply for a Home Fuel Loan.  My friend filled her gas tank this weekend and it cost $1,000 – that’s a lot of money to spend all at once, especially if you live on a fixed income.  Here at Casco Federal Credit Union, we offer a low interest Home Fuel Loan that helps members pay for fuel or install new heating systems like wood stoves (check out our website if you live in the area and would like to apply http://www.cascofcu.com ).  If you don’t have money already saved up for heating costs, a loan like this is a great way to make paying for fuel more affordable and making the regular payments will improve your credit!  Many other financial institutions offer similar products, so ask your teller the next time you go in to make a deposit.

5. Don’t Be a Vampire! Embrace the Sun – For those of you who don’t know, I am super pale.  Normally I am an SPF 1,000, avoid the sun at all costs kind of gal because the lobster red skin I get as a result of “tanning” is not only unattractive but SUPER PAINFUL.  This winter, however, I will be pulling back my light-block curtains and raising my blinds to let in the light.  Letting sunlight shine into your home during the day is a great way to help keep your place toasty warm. The best part? IT’S COMPLETELY FREE! So when the sun is shining, let it all into your house.  Then at night, put blinds and curtains back in place so they can act as extra insulation.  This will also help keep your electric bill down because you’ll have great natural lighting and won’t need to turn on that reading lamp.

One of the worst ways I heard to heat your home?  Keep the thermostat off and turn on your oven.  Many a cheap college kid has tried this trick, but as my boss pointed out, you run the very high risk of setting your place on fire (I already have a bad track record with setting the fire alarm off at my place so I will definitely be avoiding this one).  If you live somewhere cold and snowy like Maine, heating costs are a necessary evil.  Taking a little time to plan and putting some effort into weatherizing your home, however, can make those costs much more affordable and a lot less scary.

Have any good heat-saving tips of your own? Let me know in the comments section!

BONUS TIP: If you have a ceiling fan, see if it has a reverse switch.  Putting it on reverse will take the hot air that rises to your ceiling and circulate it throughout the room.

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