The winter season can be magical, and it’s a favorite time of year for many. However it can also be insanely expensive, and not just because of gift shopping and preparing for holiday gatherings. Winter heating bills often exceed summer cooling bills, and if you happen to live in an area where the temperature usually dips below freezing in the wintertime, your heating costs can end up being several hundred dollars each month. Fortunately, there are some ways you can lower the cost of keeping cozy.
Here are ten tips for decreasing your heating bill this winter.
1. Better Insulation
Replace the weatherstripping and caulking around your doors and windows. If you can see chipping, flaking, or pieces missing, it’s time to get new weatherstripping. This is a cheap fix that’s often overlooked, and you can head to your local home improvement store to get the materials needed to handle the task on your own. Caulking is simply a matter of cleaning the area, letting it dry, and then squeezing a tube, and weatherstripping can be tacked on in minutes. Worn weatherstripping and caulking leads to more heated air leaking outside and significantly more cool air coming in, making your heating bill climb higher.
2. Watch your windows
Place plastic film over your windows and any sliding doors that you have. About 25 percent of heat loss in winter is via windows, and adding a layer of film will reduce the heat loss significantly. Sheets of transparent film don’t cost much — you’ll pay about $5 to $7 for a large sheet — and putting it on is easy. Just cut the film to the size of your window and use a blow dryer and straight edge to help smooth out any air bubbles. You don’t have to put film on all of the windows in your home, and you can leave one or two uncovered if you prefer. As a bonus, once winter is over removing the film is even easier than installing it.
3. Chimney maintenance
Many people have fireplaces in their homes that they don’t use, even in winter. However, warm air from your home will escape through the chimney, even if its flue is closed. To solve this problem, use a device called a chimney balloon. It costs less than $50, and once it’s inflated the balloon keeps air from going out of the chimney. If you forget to take the balloon out before using your fireplace, it will immediately deflate to prevent fires or smoke filling your house.
4. Front and Back doors
Check the threshold of your front and back doors to see if any adjustments are needed. If you can see light coming from under your doors during the daytime, you’ll end up losing airflow in winter. If your threshold has screws that allow you to adjust the height, turn them counter clockwise to help close the gap. You don’t want it so high that the door doesn’t properly open and close, but you do want to make sure the door comes in contact with the threshold.
5. Go Portable
Try using a portable heater instead of, or in addition to, your regular heating system. This works particularly well in areas where it gets cold, but not freezing in winter. If you’re in a very cool climate you’ll likely need more than a space heater to stay warm, but it will keep your furnace from working as hard. Putting a portable space heater in the room where you’re gathered will keep your family warm, although the rest of your house will be cooler. Still, you’ll save money going this route, and portable heaters cost as little as $30.
6. Watch the smell
Turn on your heater briefly before winter comes, and see if you smell any off odors. If so, your ducts could probably use a cleaning. You’d be surprised what type of dirt and muck can accumulate in there that not only decreases your home’s energy efficiency but also affects its air quality. In addition, consider having your ducts sealed to increase your heating bill savings. Any measure that you take to reduce the loss of airflow will help reduce heating bills, and it will boost your home’s energy efficiency year round.
Have your fireplace and furnace inspected to ensure everything is working properly. Paying a bit of money upfront — usually around $100 — will save a bundle in the long run, especially if a problem is found. It’s not uncommon for high heating bills to be caused by a malfunctioning or damaged system. Besides, preventative maintenance for your fireplace and furnace is always a good idea.
8. Your attic
When was the last time that you went into your attic? Many people forget they have one, but it can lead to heat loss during wintertime if the door isn’t insulated. The problem is compounded if you happen to have an attic door that’s warped or doesn’t fully close. To fix the problem, either attach a latch bolt to the door so it will close and lie flat, or put insulation on the sides of the door to block the air. While you’re inspecting your attic door, it’s a good idea to take a look inside of the attic and check on its insulation.
9. Use the Sun
The only free heat that you’ll get in the wintertime is from the sun, so open your curtains during the daytime whenever possible. Sunlight is beneficial in winter when the days get shorter and getting the blues becomes more common, but flooding your home with rays will help increase the temperature inside. This works especially well in homes with floors made of natural materials, concrete, or stone.
10. Tank Insulation
Running a water heater can account for as much as 25 percent of your total heating bill, and insulating it is a good way to reduce its cost of operation. Remember, most water heaters are on around the clock and are always using energy. Buying a tank insulation sleeve costs about $50, but if you want a free fix turn the water heater down at least 10 degrees to save money. By going down 20 degrees, you’ll reduce the cost of operating your water heater up to 10 percent in winter.