9 Easy Ways to Save Money on Heating Costs
Updated: Jan 4
As winter drags on , you may be noticing a drag on your checking account, too.
With the mercury plunging, and energy costs holding steady, it's a safe bet that no matter what method you use to heat your home (electric, gas, oil, etc.) you will be paying a lot to heat your home this winter. Most of us can probably expect monthly energy bills between $200-400 for the colder months.
With that in mind, let me offer some hope! Whenever we do a Maintenance Inspection (kind of like an annual check-up for your house), we often find several simple fixes that help homeowners save energy and money. Here are 9 tips to help to you save some money (as much as $100-200 a month!), while taking the bite out of the winter chill (savings estimates based on energy bill of $200/month)
1) Turn down your thermostat when you are out of the home and while you are asleep
For every degree you lower your heat in the 60-degree to 70-degree range, you'll save an average of 3 percent on heating costs. So, setting it at 66 instead of 70 degrees can save up to 12%! Installing a programmable thermostat that can raise the temperature just before you wake , or when you are on your way home from work will make sure you are always comfortable, too. Potential Savings: $6-24/month (Source: EnergyHub Blog)
2) Wash clothes in cold water
About 90 percent of the energy used for washing clothes is for heating the water, costing 68 cents per load. Switching your temperature setting from hot to warm can cut this cost to 53 cents per load, and switching to cold can virtually eliminate this expense (4 cents per load). Potential Savings: $40-60/annually (Sources: EPA Blog, www.csmonitor.com)
3) Check and repair caulking and weather-stripping
Do anything you can to reduce drafts in your home, including caulking and weather stripping. If you can pass a dollar bill through the door jamb while it is closed, you need to replace the weather stripping. Seal up any holes or deteriorated caulking that can allow drafts. Energy experts say that weatherizing can save you between 5-20 percent this winter, and some anecdotal evidence suggests overall savings over $1000 when combined with a home energy audit. Potential Savings: $10-40/month (Source: www.Energy.com)
4) Install a programmable thermostat
New thermostats are extremely efficient and some - like the Nest - can even learn your patterns and program themselves. Nest has a pretty cool savings calculator right on their site . Experts estimate that programmable thermostats save up to 10-20% annually (AC included), but this requires people to use them correctly, and results vary with your willingness to set back temperatures to achieve these savings. EnergyStar's conservative estimate suggests a savings of $180/annually. Potential Savings: $15-40/month (Source: EnergyStar)
5) Plastic window insulation kits - alternative to new windows
Plastic storm window kits or heat shrink window film are a less costly alternative to new windows. The extra layer of dead air space helps increase the insulation value of your windows. In the winter, storm windows can reduce your heat loss significantly as well. Potential Savings: up to $20/window annually (Source: TLC - How Stuff Works)
6) Install ceiling fans or reverse the direction to improve heating efficiency
Use the small switch on the side of the fan housing to change the direction of the blades. Fans should turn clockwise in the summer and counter-clockwise in the winter. In winter months, operating the fan at a low setting moves warm air down and helps produce a more comfortable temperature at a lower thermostat setting. This also works in reverse to reduce air conditioning costs in summer (on a higher setting). Some estimates place the potential savings at up to 10% of your energy bill. Potential Savings: $10-20/month (Source: Apartment Therapy)
7) Schedule an annual tune-up for your heat pump, furnace or boiler. Keeping your furnace clean, lubricated and properly adjusted and changing air filters regularly will reduce energy use, saving anywhere from 5 to 40 percent of heating costs. Sealing leaks in forced air ducts, and adjustments to oil burning units can increase efficiency even more. Potential Savings: $10-80/month (Source: Building Efficiency Initiative)
8) Close off fireplaces when not in use
Chimney experts estimate that as much as 8% of your heating costs can be lost to your chimney. When not in use, fireplaces should have the dampers closed. Many dampers are poorly fit and responsible for air leakage even when closed, however - repair to provide a better seal, or installation of a top-mounted damper (which seats more tightly) can produce significant savings. Glass doors in front of the fireplace can dramatically reduce heat loss as well. Even when in use, fireplaces allow more heat to escape from the home than they generate (making them little more than a big hole in the wall - a very pretty hole, but a hole nonetheless.) Insulating batts can also be used to further reduce heat loss when not in use. Potential Savings: $6-16/month (Source: Certified Chimney Sweep)
9) Insulate attic and unfinished basement walls and joist bays
When installing insulation, the higher the "R-Value" the higher the insulating value. In existing homes, R-13 is the standard for basements and walls, while most attic areas should have R-30 or greater, whenever possible. Never compress insulation, this dramatically decreases the R-value, and you may as well have bought the lower priced insulation. And always install the paper facing towards the heated living space. This is a vapor retarder, and while it may make for more difficult installation, it decreases the potential for moisture related concerns, like mold! Proper insulation can save as much as 10-40% on heating bills. Potential Savings: $20-80/month (Source: US Department of Energy)
Obviously, some of these are more important than others, and you can only save so much....50% is probably as much as you can hope for, despite the fact that all the estimates add up to more. But ,you should be able to save at least $50, and more likely as much as $150 per month if you follow these simple and low-cost solutions.
For more ideas about how you can save money in your home, as well as a ton of useful maintenance suggestions, schedule one of our Maintenance Inspections. You're almost certain to save more than you spend on the inspection, and will learn a lot about your house in the process.