7 Ways to Stay Warm and Cool Your Heating Bills

January 16, 2009
By

freezing-thermometerWe got the shock of our life the other day when the heating oil bill arrived. No, the price hadn’t skyrocketed to a point that we were feeling faint. Instead, we had a $600 credit because oil prices had dropped so much.

You see our oil company has a monthly payment plan that, last year, barely covered our oil bills. By the end of the heating season, we still owed $1,000. This year, though, it’s like opposite day with our already having money left over in our account, and in we’re in January only.

I guess this change shouldn’t surprise me since I filled up my car for $1.85 a gallon earlier this week. And just yesterday we got a new oil delivery. The price per gallon was $2.49. This time last year, it was more than double that.

Even though we’re paying less to keep our home warm this winter, I’m not giving up on our money-saving ways that continue to keep our energy bills low. You shouldn’t either.

With that in mind, here are 7 ways you can stay warm inside this winter and keep your heating bills on the cool side:

1. Turn down the heat. OK, so this is an obvious one, but how many of you actually do this? And what temperature do you turn it down to? Did you know that for every degree you lower (or raise in the summer) your thermostat, you save anywhere from five to 10 percent on your heating (or cooling) bills? You’re not gonna freeze in a home kept at 68 degrees.

2. Get thee a digital thermostat. In my old house we had one of those thermostats with the wand that you pushed from left to right or right to left to raise or lower the heat. When I nudged the heat close to 70 degrees, I could have actually pushed the heat to 72 degrees or I might not have even reach 70 degrees and then wondered why I was still chilly. I was guesstimating what I’d pushed the heat to because there were no real numbers telling me the degree. Therefore, I never had a true sense of how much energy I might be wasting from unnecessary heating. With a digital thermostat the numbers are right there in black and white–or silver and black as the case may be.

3. Make your digital thermostat a programmable one. Here’s what a programmable thermostat can do for you. You can program it so that when everyone leaves for work and school, the heat goes down to, say, 65 degrees. No one is home so why keep heating your house? Then, about 30 minutes before everyone comes home, you can program the thermostat to get your heat back up to 68 or 70 or whatever temperature you define as toasty. You can do similar programming for when you go to sleep at night. Again, if everyone is snuggly warm in their beds, why have the heat up?

4. Keep your heating system clean. If your boiler should be serviced every year, get it done so that you know that your system is running at 100%. If you have forced air and use filters, change them on the recommended schedule. In my old house the filters said they could last for three months, but I found that the airflow output decreased significantly after one month, because of all the gunk that the filter had trapped. Therefore, I changed our filters (usually the Filtrete kind from 3M) monthly.

5. Find ways to stay warm that don’t involve turning up the heat. Now, get your mind out of the gutter–this is a G-rated blog. No, what I’m talking about are things like dressing for the weather, which is just as important when you’re indoors as when you’re out. So today, for example, it’s in the single digits outside. I’m not walking around in a t-shirt and shorts. I’ve got on an undershirt, long-sleeved crew neck shirt and a cashmere sweater. I’m wearing corduroy pants, and socks and shoes–in the house. Additionally, I warmed up this morning with hot coffee, and I’m having hot cocoa now. Later, if I’m cold and want to watch TV, I’ll watch TV while walking on the treadmill. (We have wireless headphones so I don’t have to blast the volume.) Walking for an hour while watching “The Biggest Loser” or another show I have on Tivo keeps me warm and fit. And if after that I’m still cold, I’ll grab one of the dozen or so blankets I have folded up in the living room that we can throw around our shoulders when we’re sitting around and happen to feel chilly.

6. Want to lower your bills? Lower your hot water temperature. Turn the temperature on your hot water heater to 120 degrees, the temperature at which the Consumer Products Safety Commission says that most people won’t be scalded by the water–great if you’ve got little kids in the house who might turn on the hot water by themselves by accident. But it’s still  hot enough for an enjoyable shower. Speaking of showers you can save on your hot water energy by taking shorter showers at cooler temperatures, and washing your laundry in cold water only. Ethan Ewing, president of free online consumer portal Bills.com says that most people can save up to 10 percent just from changing how they heat their water.

7. Insulate your home where necessary. If your hot water heater is situated in a cool area of the home and seems to be radiating heat, you may want to wrap it in insulation. This will prevent it from losing the temperature of the water and having to turn on and heat the water more–all of which uses more energy. Additionally, see if your attic could use some more insulation. According to Energy Star, a good rule of thumb is this: if you can see the floor joists in your attic, then you don’t have enough insulation. You’ll want to add another layer.

What are some of the other ways you’ve found you can keep warm without spending more on your heating bills?

P.S. For a giggle, check out “thermostat” cat on I Can Has Cheezburger.

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12 Responses to 7 Ways to Stay Warm and Cool Your Heating Bills

  1. [...] topics I should cover as a way of offering another perspective. Such as the recent post about how to save on heating bills. Because not everyone who reads this blog owns a home, readers wanted similar advice that renters [...]

  2. Daisy on January 18, 2009 at 9:11 pm

    For renters: would the landlord spring for a programmable thermostat? We used one in the duplex we rented years ago; removed it when we left. If I were a landlord, I’d probably put one in and encourage the tenants to use it.

  3. gardeningatc on January 18, 2009 at 10:22 am

    We’ve had programmable thermostats at the Gardening at the Crossroads homestead for at least 25 years. What we need now is an automatic filter changing device, I never get around to changing them.

    It’s one of those things that you think of while driving down the road that you promptly forget about when you open the garage door (like painting the garage door)!

  4. Coupon shipping on January 17, 2009 at 7:17 pm

    Great saving tips! I will certainly try to lowering my hot water to 120 degrees.
    Thanks for the post!
    Pascale

  5. Kim on January 17, 2009 at 1:53 pm

    We keep the thermostat even lower and spot heat rooms we are actually “living in.” We have heat pumps, and are grateful for their energy conservation, as our home is entirely electric.

  6. [...] The rest is here: 7 Ways to Stay Warm and Cool Your Heating Bills [...]

  7. ~M on January 16, 2009 at 8:52 pm

    I also agree that humid air holds heat and makes it feel warmer (this is why an air conditioner, which dehumidifies, makes it cooler).

    I would like to see a post like this – winter tips for reducing heating bills – specific to renters. I live in a rented apartment, so I can’t implement many of these tips. We do keep the (wand-like :( ) thermostat off when we are not in that room and relatively low (we even turn the heat off at night in below 0ºF temps in Chicago since we have a great down comforter and mattress warmer). Still, I’d like to learn more tips!

  8. Daisy on January 16, 2009 at 5:12 pm

    :) It’s so cold the schools are closed- for the second day in a row! Raising the moisture level of the air makes it feel warmer. There’s research on it, if only I could find it and link you in that direction.

  9. leahingram on January 16, 2009 at 1:49 pm

    Does a humidifier really help to warm the air? I would think that the dampness would make it colder!

    And what are you doing home from school in the middle of the day?

  10. Daisy on January 16, 2009 at 1:36 pm

    Our den is our “cozy” room, but it gets drafty when it’s bitter cold. I see five blanket throws in the room right now. Amigo is wrapped up in a comforter while he listens to his audio book, and I’m snug as a bug with a blanket throw and my laptop, not to mention my warm hoodie sweatshirt. The other simple step is the humidifier on the fireplace hearth keeping the air moist.

  11. leahingram on January 17, 2009 at 11:52 am

    Yours is an excellent suggestion–a post geared towards renters. I’m already researching to the topic and hope to have something to post early next week.

    Leah

  12. leahingram on January 20, 2009 at 11:45 am

    FYI, here’s another great way to saving on heating bills–having your oil boiler bust on you. Yup, that’s what seems to have happened last night when we awoke for the smell of exhaust fumes in the house. The heat is totally off and it’s hovering between 60 and 62 degrees in the house. I’ve got on four layers and you know what? It’s not that bad. Service people are on their way.

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