Heat cost – Tips for reducing yours

By glblguy

frozen

After seeing my home heating cost at more than $400 last month, I decided to take some drastic action to reduce our overall heating cost. Right now, I just don’t have the budget to make major changes like moving to a more energy efficient heat-pump or converting to a different source of heat like propane or oil, but I did find a number of minor changes I could make to help reduce my heating cost.

Based on the comments I received on my Propane, Electricity, or Oil – Which one is cheaper? I’m guessing many of you are in the same situation and have high heat bills as well. Over the past few weeks, I’ve been doing a great deal of reading and research on tips for reducing overall heating cost and thought I’d share with you what I’ve learned thus far:

Install Programmable Thermostats – While this particular tip won’t help me too much, for many it can result in significant money savings over time. Set your heat to a lower temperature just before you go to bed and to automatically warm up before you wake up. If you work out of the home, additionally set the thermostat to lower temperature while you’re away, and have it warm up before you return home.

Additionally, if you have multiple floors and separate heating units, you can have the thermostats adjust based on where in the house you are during the day and evening.  In our old house, we lowered the temperature on both floors at night, and during the day kept the temperature upstairs low and raised the temperature downstairs.

Again, this tip won’t help me too much as we pretty keep our house thermostat set on 66 and we only have one heating unit. We use our propane gas fireplace to warm the main level up.

Insulate!

Sealing your house to completely remove drafts is the number one tip recommended by all heating specialists. An amazing amount of heat can be lost through gaps in insulation around doors and windows.

There may be better ways, but to for check for drafts I use a simple candle. Just run the flame close to the seals on doors and windows and watch the flame. I currently have a few that literally blow the candle out!  To solve these problems, install new weather stripping. This is a job that is very easy to do and only takes a few minutes.

Another source of heat loss is electrical outlets. Foam insulators for electrical outlets are available that will stop any air coming in or out through your outlets. Installing these along with replacing weather stripping is my project for this weekend!

Our new home has a basement, and based on my research a significant amount of home heat loss is through the basement, even if it’s not heated like ours. I found a product by Dow called Wallmate that is specifically designed for insulating basements. Given my home office is in our partially finished basement, I’m going to be investigating the cost of Wallmate this weekend as well. It looks easy to install and the 2″ version has an R value of 10. Compared the R value 1 on my concrete cinder block walls, it should make a huge difference. We also have sheet rock wall separating our storage room from the garage, and it’s completely not insulated. I’ll be fixing this as well over the weekend with some inexpensive fiberglass insulation.

Seal off unused windows with plastic

We have number of windows downstairs in the basement area that we don’t use (i.e. look through).  Another project for this weekend will be to cover the windows with plastic  to completely seal them off. While not a pretty solution, it works. Just cut the clear plastic to fit the window frame and use Duct tape to keep it in place and seal it up. Using clear plastic is important as you still want to let the sun in so you can take advantage of that free solar energy to help warm the room up. Like I said, i’ts not pretty but nobody really goes in our basement except us anyway.

Close off unused rooms

During the day, we spend very little time in our master bedroom and have a guest room that is never really used unless we have visitors. During the day, we close off the heating vents in the rooms and keep the doors shut. This further increases the heat to the rooms we’re in and makes the heat pump more efficient as it has to heat less square feet. We also close off the bathrooms, and closets that have heat vents as well.

Be creative

There are lots of little creative things you can do to help as well. Here are just a few:

  • Sunlight - Open curtains and blinds that have direct sunlight coming through them, and closing off curatains and blinds for shaded windows. This will allow the heat in and keep the cold out.
  • Radiant heaters – My parents keep the heat in their house very low, and use radiant heaters to heat the rooms they are in.
  • Oven Heat – Using the oven to cook dinner? After you remove your meal and turn off he oven, leave he door open to allow the heat out into the room. If you have kids, this is not a tip I would advise using.
  • Use Ceiling Fans – Ceiling fans can really make a huge difference. In the winter, run them backwards to distribute heat around the room. Heat rises and will sit up towards the ceiling. Using the ceiling fan will bring the heat down to wear you are.

Of course these are just a few of the many tips available and the one’s we’re currently using. Add your tips below. What things to do you do to help keep your heat cost down? Let me know, I need all the help I can get!!

Photo by: dotbenjamin


15 Responses (including trackbacks) to “Heat cost – Tips for reducing yours”

  1. MoneyGrubbingLawyer Says:

    My typical advice to my wife is “Put on a sweater!” Lowering your thermostat a little is probably the easiest and most efficient way to lower your heating bills. Of course, you can only go so low before things get unbearable and penguins start to congregate in your living room.

  2. Travis Says:

    I know our heating cost, along with other people we talked to, about doubled in December. We’re used to a very low bill so it came as quite a surprise. I instantly turned the thermostat down a couple degrees when I got the bill, but my wife has since turned it back up a little. We can relate to the penguins talk, we’re always wrapped up in blankets at night on the couch.

  3. Christy Says:

    I bump my furnace down whenever we go out and have tried unsuccessfully to find info on how *long* is worth bumping it down before it starts to be a detriment instead of a help in heating.

    For example, if I’m only gone from the house for an hour and I drop the temp to 63, on a cold wintry day, it will run for a long time to get the temp back up to 66. Will the cost to crank it back up and get the temp up (and having it run for a longer period) defeat the purpose? What about for 2 hours? 4 hours?

    I guess what I am trying to find out is, what length of time makes the cost/savings ratio worth it?

    I’d love any info you have on that.

  4. Christy Says:

    And maybe it’s just me, but (within reason) I like snuggling on the couch with blankets. Summer snuggling isn’t nearly as cozy. LOL

  5. Nicki at Domestic Cents Says:

    I use ‘free heat’ all the time. I open the oven, even the toaster oven, after cooking.

    I have a few closets on the outside walls of my home that let in a lot of cool air (my walls are poorly insulated). I keep it out by making sure the closet doors are closed. Seems simple, but it makes a really big difference when it’s been closed off all day. It’s cold in there!

  6. Twinsmom Says:

    It’s kind of a “duh!” suggestion but here goes. Make sure all your windows and seldom-used exterior doors are completely shut and locked! Two years ago, I had my bed placed under a window and some nights could literally feel the breeze but I knew I had the windows shut. I finally checked them, and yes, the bottoms of two windows were completely shut, but the tops had fallen down just a little, not enough to see if you weren’t looking for them, but definitely enough to let in cold air. When I shut AND LOCKED them, the difference in the room in just a few minutes was amazing. The same thing with our back door. It swells in the winter and is hard to latch without engaging the deadbolt. I have been extra cold the last 2 nights, and come to find my daughter had not shut the door tight AND LOCKED it to keep it closed when she let the cat out before bed. Again, making sure that latch and seal are tight has made a huge difference. Also little things like rolled towels at the bottom of closed interior and exterior doors also help keep the heat where you want it.

  7. ryan Says:

    I am checking out the econo-heat panels that use only 400 watts a piece. I have seen good reviews and lots of folks saying they reduced bills greatly, but still researching. Has anyone heard or tried these?

  8. Mr. Imperfect Says:

    All of these are really great ideas and work when executed properly. Two things I would add: a) Humidity levels play an important role in how the air “feels” temperature wise. A cheap humidity gauge will run around $8.00. Instead of buying a professional humidifier, we experimented with water pans on heating units and vents until we got the right combo. b) If you have a central unit (that has duct work and a return air) check your air filter often. A clogged air filter can increase your bill around 20%! Cover your mouth and try to breathe-just like you the unit must work harder causing an increase in electricity use. Have a great day!

  9. Broke Says:

    I don’t know how much heat a large scented candle gives off, but I like to light one up near me when I’m watching TV. It smells nice and I think it keeps the air around me somewhat warmer. Using a blanket on the couch is a little annoying when you have to grab the hold a drink. Have you seen the Snuggie infomercial? It’s a blanket with arm sleeves. A cheaper way to go is to wear my front-zippered sweatshit/hoodie backwards and use my blanket just to cover my legs. Also stuffing the bottom of the door to your basement with a towel or make a long homemade bean bag. I saw an infomercial for Twin Draft Door Guard which does the same thing. Has anyone tried that window plastic to cover a gas fireplace? The gas bill was so high I turned my pilot off, but the wind comes right in through the flue. Right now I just have some heavy boxes blocking it. Very attractive.

  10. Stacey Says:

    We’ve always put up the plastic sheets on our oldest windows. I never really thought it did anything, until one night – woosh! The wind blew the plastic off. (It was an intense snow storm.) I instantly felt a draft, almost like Twinsmom noted. We reapplied the double-sided tape and haven’t had a problem since.

    If you buy the insulating plastic packages at the store, it really doesn’t look that bad. We keep ours up for the entire year to keep out both the cold and heat. You use a hairdryer to shrink the plastic, and the curtains cover up the edges. Our house guests don’t even realize the windows are covered until they walk up and attempt to touch the window. :)

  11. Mark Framness Says:

    One of the unintended consequences of sealing up the house real tight is increased levels of humidity which can cause condensation on your windows.

    My brother who was in the residential window business (delivery & service) warns that chronic condensation left alone can lead to premature deterioration of the window (I am guessing this is a problem with wood windows and not vinyl). I have cellular shades (which provide an R4 insulation) on our bedroom windows and the guest bedrooms need to be defrosted about every other day especially in really cold weather (near or below zero).

    I open the shades, the entry door, and turn the ceiling fans on high. After about one hour the frost is melted & water evaporated. I then wipe the windows down with a paper towel and shut everything back down.

  12. MITBeta @ Don't Feed the Alligators Says:

    @ Christy:

    There is no length of time, nor temperature low enough for which it is not worth turning your thermostat down. The only thing you need to factor in is how long it will take to return the space to the desired temperature. Think of your house as a bucket and the water inside it is the heat. The level of the water is the temp in the house. The house/bucket is full of holes and heat/water leaks out all the time. The more heat/water, the faster it leaks out. Lowering the temp/level slows the rate at which the leaking occurs. Lowering the level also turns off the furnace/faucet until the temp/level gets to the new setting. Later, you have to put that heat back in to fill the bucket up again, while also fighting against all the leakage from the bucket, but this is still less than what would be used to keep the house at temp while you are gone.

    @Glbl & Nicki: Opening the oven door is a zero sum game. The heat is still going to get into the room, it’s just going to take longer with the door open.

    Here’s a tip: Turn your vent fans off as soon as you are done with them. Leaving a bathroom or stove vent on longer than necessary takes hot air from your house, dumps it outside, and sucks cold air in from outside to replace it.

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