Q: I just got my first wintertime heating bill and I’m reeling. I’ve sealed all leaky windows and I’ve replaced the weather stripping around my doors, but my bill is still astronomical. Short of hibernating until spring, is there anything I can do to keep my heating costs down this winter?
A: Sealing air leaks and weather-stripping are great first steps toward lowering your heating bill. Luckily, there are many other things you can do to hack your way to a lower heating bill this winter.
Here are some creative ways to save on heating costs.
Dust your vents
When’s the last time you removed the covers of your heating vents or radiators to tackle the layers of dust that have built up inside? You don’t have to answer that, but this can be an easy, effective way to lower your heating bills. Dust acts as a natural insulator and can block some of the hot air from heating your home.
Lower your thermostat
Dad was right: If you’re cold, put on a sweater!
You don’t have to set your thermostat to freezing. However, the Department of Energy recommends keeping it at 68 degrees in the winter for maximum energy savings. If you’re still feeling doubtful, consider this: For every degree you crank it down over a 24-hour period throughout the month, you can shave up to 3 percent off your heating bill. This means each lower degree over an 8-hour period can save 1 percent off your bill. If you can lower your thermostat by 10 degrees at night or while you’re at work, you’ll save 10 percent off your heating bill! A smart or programmable thermostat can do the job for you so you don’t have to remember — or even put forth extra effort — to turn it down.
Don’t overdo it, though. Lowering your heat by more than 10 degrees forces it to use more energy than you’ll save to get it back up again. If you can’t sleep unless you’re snug and warm, you might want to invest in a heated blanket or mattress pad to keep you toasty warm on the coldest nights.
Turn on your ceiling fans
Most ceiling fans are equipped with a “summer” and “winter” setting. During the summer, blades should be moving in a counterclockwise direction to draw the cold air upward from the floor so it can cool the room. In the wintertime, you’ll want those blades to move in a clockwise direction so the hot air, which naturally rises towards the ceiling, can be blown downward and can warm up the room.
Use aluminum foil to make your radiator work harder
Tape a piece of aluminum foil behind the radiator to reflect heat into the room instead of into the wall. Don’t worry about how this might look; no one can see what’s going on behind your radiator.
Use zone heating
If you live in a large home with more rooms than you regularly use, keep the lesser-used areas just warm enough to prevent pipes from freezing. You can close some of the vents in these rooms and shut the door to keep that heat in.
On the flip side, be sure to open the doors of the rooms that see heavy use so the hot air can flow evenly throughout the house. Some rooms are naturally warmer than others, and you want your unit to heat your entire home as efficiently as possible.
Rearrange your furniture
Take a quick tour of your home to check if you have any furniture situated near your heating vents. You don’t want to be paying all that money just for hot air to be flowing into the underside of your living room sofa.
You may also want to rearrange your furniture in the wintertime for another reason. No matter how well you seal your windows and doors, the perimeters of rooms are almost always colder than the interiors during the winter. If your favorite armchair is near a drafty window, you’ll feel that cold air blowing in whenever you sit down, which might prompt you to run and crank up the thermostat. Consider rearranging your furniture for the winter so your favorite pieces are in the warmest areas of each room.
Let the sunshine in
The low-in-the-sky winter sun can give you hours of free solar heat each day — if you let it in. Be sure to open the curtains in the early morning hours and to close them at night to keep that warm air inside. You may also want to swap your curtains for thicker, insulated ones in the winter for further protection against the cold night air.
Humidify your air
Remember those hot, sticky days of summer? Use that humidity to your advantage now by investing in a humidifier for the winter. Moisture helps to hold onto heat and will keep the air warmer for longer.
Don’t be left out in the cold! Use our heating hacks to keep your house toasty warm this winter without breaking your budget.