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Cooling off your winter heating costs

As the winter cold rushes in, home heating bills are set to rise. Although heating a home can be expensive, it doesn’t have to be. Your heating costs have little to do with what energy-saving appliances you don’t have and more to do with your own heating habits.

When you’re starting a budget and looking at areas to cut, you assess your expenses by the level of importance (or at least I do). What do they really mean to you? Will keeping your home a few degrees warmer really affect your quality of life? Maybe it does, but not for me. I’m not afraid to admit it – I’m cheap on energy, so I can devote my energy (and money) to other things I value more – family and experiences – like tropical family vacations to escape the long, cold winters.

Now, I’m not saying you’re going to save a family vacation in a year, just by reducing your energy consumption – but it helps. Although some sites have me thinking otherwise. It always amazes me how many websites, before anything, suggest replacing your windows, insulation or other expensive options. Well, kudos to the window and insulation companies for writing those articles!

The October 2012 issue of Consumer Reports states that “though new windows can save you money… tests have found that it could take up to 20 years to recoup the investment.” Twenty years! Last summer, we got quotes to replace three of our own leaky windows and with installation, they wanted on average, $1,000 a pop! I think I’ll keep my drafty windows a little longer, thank you very much. I’d rather look for a cheaper solution.

Yes of course windows and insulation are fantastic options if you can afford it. But you don’t need to spend money to save money. There are cheaper ways:

Turn down the heat

Every degree can translate into about 2% savings on your heating bill. If you don’t have a programmable thermostat, get one – they’re well worth it.

Save by scheduling your thermostat to lower the temperature when you’re asleep and/or at work. And if you’re usually asleep at work, even better. Why have the heat cranked, when you’re not even home? If you’re planning a night out, just trot on over to your thermostat and take it down a couple of notches. You’ll find, that if you start off by setting your temperature way down and then incrementally go warmer, until you’re comfortable, that you’ll actually warm up to the cooler temperatures.

Many suggest that having your temperature so low is not energy-efficient, because the furnace has to work longer and harder to warm your home back up. As someone who was paying on average $30 a month through the winter, I’d say that’s hogwash. There are many sites like this one debunking that theory. But don’t just take my word for it, Google thermostat myths.

Yes, I did say we used to have it set low in the winter. Having a child changes everything. Yes, even your temperature setting. But by using a combination of other cheap and easy methods, such as the winter heating tips listed below, we’re still saving quite a bit on our winter heating costs.

Keep the drafts out, heating costs down

Seal any potential air leaks around your house.

  • Seal the cracks. And any vents. Caulk in around plugs, attic access, floor vents and bathroom fans. Take a walk outside and caulk around any dryer vents, windows, sliding doors, etc. A $2 bottle of caulking can go a long way.
  • Seal around any doors and windows. You can buy fairly cheap adhesive weatherstripping kits and door sweeps from your local hardware store to help seal your doors and window insulation film for drafty windows. Also, you want to keep your doors and windows closed, as much as possible, throughout the winter, to prevent any heat loss. Yes, we’ve even noticed a difference by just keeping closet doors closed. The reason is, most attics and closets are not well insulated. Insulation can certainly be beneficial, but as with anything, you have to weigh the cost (including potential costs if not fixed) vs. the total cost savings. It may or not be worth it. This is just a simple solution, that doesn’t cost you a thing.

Let the sunshine in

  • When the sun is shining, open up your blinds and curtains and take advantage of free solar power.
  • Close the curtains at night to reduce heat loss. To combat our leaky windows, my wife put together some lovely curtains out of some thick, clearance fabric we found.

Don’t let your heating bill land you in hot water

On average, heating water accounts for about 19 percent of your natural gas bill. So again, be mindful of your energy use. Whether you’re using the shower/bath or any hot water, for that matter.

  • Install low-flow showerheads. They not only save water, but they also save energy.
  • Insulate your water heater.

A while back, our utility company was running an energy-saving program, so we got both of these for free. Ask around, your utility company might be running a similar program.

Get cozy

Feeling a little chilly? Put on an extra sweater. Pour yourself a nice mug of coffee or tea. Wear extra blankets to bed. Cuddle. There are many options to keep you warm and your heating costs down this winter. Here are a few others:

  • Use space heaters. Heating up one room is a lot less costly than heating up a whole house.
  • Got a fireplace? Use it! Just remember to close the damper when it’s not in use. Just like space heaters, it’s less costly than heating up a whole house.
  • Aye, there’s the rug? One of the things that can really warm up a room is carpeting. And I hate carpet. I worked so hard to get rid of it. Well, most of it. But we’ve noticed quite a temperature difference and have been slowly introducing rugs into some of the rooms. They don’t need to be expensive. We found a cute little (large) rug for our daughter’s room for $20. And we really notice a difference.

Of course, all these factors will depend on the size of your home. It’s much easier to heat a smaller home. But a slight change in your heating habits leaves more change in your pockets.

Do you have any other inexpensive heating tips or anything else you’d like to share? Keep warm and sign up to my mailing list to get my newest posts delivered right to your inbox.

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