10 Ways to Save on Your Heating & Electric Bills in Winter
With the first cool breeze of winter creeping in, it’s the right time to start considering ways to make your house more efficient and save on your heating bill.
Don’t wait until to get astounded by your first electric or gas bill of the season. What's worse is that energy prices can always rise further during the cold season because of demand.
Start accumulating energy savings by doing a few of these inexpensive and easy home improvement projects.
The Department of Energy suggests that homeowners conduct a do-it-yourself energy assessment to measure your energy efficiency.
Considering when your home was built and when the last time things were updated is the first step in getting on the right track toward energy savings.
Caulk Any Cracks or Gaps in Your Walls
One of the most important problems to look for is any cracks or crevices in your walls and near your windows.
Warm air can escape through these openings, so it is important that you address any gaps or openings.
Even if your house isn't that old, you can have cracks that you don't know about. As your house settles over time new cracks may appear, allowing heat to escape.
Don't forget to examine your baseboards as well. Gaps between the floor and baseboards can increase over time. Also, sometimes these gaps are readily visible.
You should feel around your walls, frames, and boards to see if you can feel any cold air coming through.
If they are small openings, less than 3 inches wide, seal them with some caulk or sealant shut which is an easy and inexpensive way to keep the warmth inside.
To insulate using spray foam, it’s a simple process.
- You’ll first want to clean the area, making sure it is free of debris and dirt.
- Next, you’ll want to add a touch of water to the area around the gap you are going to be filling.
- Finally, you’ll shake the can as directed by reading the label on your product.
- Once you’ve gotten your product ready, you can start to spray the foam in the crack.
- Lastly, once it hardens, you’ll be able to cut away the excess foam on the top.
Add or Replace the Insulation to Your Attic
Because hot air rises, your energy expenses could literally be disappearing into your attic.
If you have a home with an attic, check the ceiling and see if you are experiencing any gaps in insulation or areas that lack insulation altogether.
If you are interested in adding insulation yourself, consider the type of insulation you are wanting to utilize of which there are three main kinds--spray, blown-in, and batting.
Make sure you select insulation with a high R-Value so you can protect from heat loss.
Spray foam insulation is installed with a large hose that is fed up to the attic from a blower machine located on the ground level.
Blown-in insulation uses either recycled fiberglass or cellulose. Because of the complexity of the installation process, spray foam and blown-in insulation should be performed by professional installers.
Rolled fiberglass insulation can be unrolled, cut, and added in between joists in your attic.
The most DIY-friendly of the three is the rolled fiberglass insulation, although it does take some skill to install it correctly. Insulation can be a DIY project for many, but some may prefer to leave it to the professionals.
Fiberglass can be tricky to work with, and spraying insulation requires specialty machinery that the average homeowner might not have access to.
|Spray Foam||Fills all gaps, holes, and irregular shapes of walls and ceilings; high R-value.||Expensive; must be professionally installed.|
|Blown-In||Fills all gaps, holes, and irregular shapes of walls and ceilings; high R-value, eco-friendly.||Expensive; must be professionally installed; house settling can create air gaps after installation.|
|Batt||Affordable; DIY-possible; comes in rolls and convenient pre-cut pieces; fiberglass batting is mafe of recycled glass and eco-friendly.||If not properly installed air gaps and cracks possible; R-Value not as high as foam or blown insulation; may not fit odd shapes of walls or ceilings well.|
Seal Your Doorways
You might be paying a lot in heating bills if you have a cold draft (and heat escaping) coming through your main egresses--your front door or back door or patio door.
If there are air gaps, it can contribute to a significant amount of energy your are using to heat your home.
Sealing the bottom cracks of your doorway can also help keep warm air in a room.
By using door draft stoppers at the bottom of your doors, you can prevent the warm air from escaping.
You can find them on Amazon for less than $10, and they are very easy to trim and fit on the bottom of any door.
If you don’t want to install something permanent, you can also use rolled-up towels and place them under the door so that the bottom is completely sealed shut.
This should also insulate the room sufficiently without allowing any warm air to escape underneath the door, but it's not as convenient or efficient as a door sweep or draft stopper.
The gap at the bottom of your door is a rather obvious fix but many ignore the cold air seeping in around the door. This is usually due to any existing gap from the door to the door jamb.
This can also be an easy fix for most doors if your door edges and door jamb are still intact. You can purchase a weather seal or foam adhesive which comes in the form of rolled tape from any hardware or home improvement store.
Lock In a Flat Rate With Your Heating Company
Some heating companies offer flat rates, which can save you a lot of money, especially if you know energy costs will likely rise through the year or the season.
Other companies don't really offer a flat rate but what they do is take an average annual cost and divide that into twelve equal monthly payments throughout the year, regardless of your actual energy use.
It may end up saving you money or actually might cost you more money. It's a gamble but again could save you a lot of money if energy costs are going up.
Replace the Filter in Your HVAC of Forced Air Unit
To get the best performance from your heating (or cooling) unit, replace the filter on a regular schedule.
While there are different filter replacement criteria for different types of heating/cooling units, a good rule of thumb is to replace your filter every 90 days.
Changing a dirty filter can produce dramatic results.
A dirty filter clogs and prevents the forced hot air from traveling through the ducts from the unit.
In addition to keeping your heating unit clean, a new filter will keep your air cleaner too.
HEPA filters for HVAC systems are readily available at home improvement stores like Home Depot or Lowe's. However, they're very easy to also just order online.
You can even subscribe to a service that automatically sends you new filters at regular intervals of time so you don't have to think about it.
Replacing your filter takes less than five minutes. First, find the filter receptacle and pull the old filter out. Then, slide in the new filter and you’re done!
Now you’ll have cleaner air and a more efficient heating system with very minimal effort.
Upgrade to a Smart Programmable Thermostat
Upgrading your thermostat not only makes you look tech-savvy but it also makes you budget savvy.
Many homeowners are unaware of how much money they can save when their home's heating is set by a smart thermostat.
A smart thermostat can not only set your home's temperature to a particular target but also follow a varied daily schedule as well as sense when no one is home and automatically lower the temperature settings.
Energy Star estimates that the average person saves as much as 8% on their heating or cooling bills each year by changing to a smart thermostat; while other studies have concluded that users save more than 10% on average.
However, it's up to the individual situation because some have been able to cut back over 20% energy use. It all depends on how you utilize the smart thermostat.
Some well-known trusted brands are Google Nest, Ecobee, Honeywell, and Amazon.
Other bonuses with smart thermostats is that you can often control your temperature remotely with an app, and that the thermostats themselves are more intuitive to navigate than a "conventional" digital thermostat.
Some thermostats such as the Google Nest Learning thermostat actually "learns" your heating and cooling habits to adapt to this pattern.
Invest in Updating Your Heating System
If you’re ready to breathe better and save money on your utility bills, replacing your old system with a new one might be a wise investment.
Updating your heating system might not be something you’ve considered in the past, but newer models are far more energy efficient than in previous years.
In addition to the energy savings, newer heating systems also have better air filtration abilities, helping you to breathe better.
First, how old is your current system?
If you are approaching the 10-year mark, it might be time to start searching for replacement units and contractors to install a new unit. This is not a project you’ll be able to attempt yourself, so doing the research to find a qualified professional is crucially important to ensuring you get a return on your new investment.
Pros and Cons of Upgrading Your HVAC System
- Newer more efficient furnaces means a lot of long-term savings.
- Save on any cost of repairs that may be required for older furnaces.
- New systems and installation are very costly.
Upgrade Your Fireplace
If you already have a wood-burning or gas fireplace or stove, consider upgrading to a more efficient wood pellet version.
In addition to being more energy efficient than running a heating system continuously, they can also be environmentally friendly and carbon neutral, depending on the brand of pellets you use.
Wood pellets are made from scrap wood compressed and compacted tightly together (some companies use wood from virgin trees) so you get a longer and more efficient burn from pellets as opposed to traditional logs.
You also don't have to remember to continually load the stove the way you do with a wood-burning stove or fireplace. Depending on your hopper capacity, you might be able to load as much as 40 pounds just once a day.
One 40-lb. bag of wood pellets typically costs less than $10. This can equal 24 hours or more of heating for your household.
There are also freestanding wood pellet stoves available that don't require professional installation, but they are plug-in electric.
Fortunately, the cost to operate an electric pellet stove contributes very little to your electricity bill.
This means a whole winter of heating can save you hundreds of dollars in heating costs.
You can get a wood pellet fireplace or stove from most hardware stores and major retailers, and although the upfront cost can be sizable depending on the model, the long-term savings are tangible.
Pros and Cons of Installing a Pellet Stove
- Heats efficiently and saves money.
- Direct vent models available.
- Doesn't require constant loading all day.
- Installation can be very costly.
- Must buy pellets in order to operate.
Add a Ceiling Fan
Remember that rising hot air? While adding a fan might seem counterintuitive, adding a ceiling fan will help redistribute the hot air in the room.
If you find yourself spending a lot of time sitting in a particular room and notice that there are cold spots around the room, consider adding one.
This is another DIY project that is perfect for beginners.
You can find many videos online on how to install a ceiling fan. In addition, the major home improvement stores have their own instructional videos.
While typical ceiling fans cost a few hundred dollars per fixture, they can range to the thousands for premium and deluxe models.
However, there are plenty of options well under the $100 mark, which is an inexpensive way you can start circulating the warm air in your room and cut down on using your heater.
Use Window Coverings
Adding window coverings like large, floor-length curtains can prevent cool air from entering your space.
Consider longer, thicker curtains such as blackout curtains, and/or choose to include a liner for extra protection.
These are sure to cover any cold window panes, while also trapping cool air behind the thick material.
You can also consider adding shrink film to your windows to keep out the cold.
This Duck Brand Indoor 10-Window Shrink Film Insulator Kit has thousands of positive reviews on Amazon, with customers raving about the difference in temperature these handy plastic covers provide.
At just $30 for 10 windows, this is another extremely inexpensive and simple way to keep the cold out and keep your warm air inside.
Use Space Heaters
Space heaters are an excellent way to add more heat to an area of your home without having to run the entire central air system.
If you find yourself alone and remaining in one area of the house, it might not make sense to heat the entire thing. Instead, using a space heater concentrates the heat to the area you’re in.
There are so many different types of space heaters these days, including personal desk heaters and larger heating fans.
Personal desk heaters are as inexpensive, while bigger heating fans can get fairly pricey for large spaces.
Small heaters draw less power than larger ones, so if your aim is to save money while heating yourself, consider a smaller personal-sized heater.