If you’re determined to keep your heating bill more affordable in the winter, try these 10 tactics and watch your bills begin to drop along with the temperatures.
1. Run Your Ceiling Fans In the Opposite Direction
Running your fan counterclockwise produces cool air, but running it the opposite direction in the winter can help reduce your heating bill. Running a fan clockwise creates an updraft and pushes warm air near the ceiling down. This can make warm air spread further, preventing homeowners from needing to crank the heat up quite as much.
2. Bump Down Your Thermostat
This may sound like an obvious one, but keeping your house just a few degrees cooler — ideally around 68 degrees during the day and even lower at night — makes a big impact. For each degree you lower your heating in the 60-70 degree range, you’ll shave your energy bill by as much as 5%, according to the Consumer Energy Center of California. If your home gets a little too cool, use this as an excuse to snuggle under warm blankets or put a sweater on. It’s why they exist.
3. Lower Your Hot Water Temperature
While you’re turning things down, it’s also good practice to reduce the temperature of your hot water heater by just a few degrees. Chances are you won’t even notice it when showering, and your dishes and clothes surely won’t mind being rinsed a few degrees cooler. If you do notice, and you don’t like it, turn it back up a tiny bit.
If possible, it’s also smart to cut your showers a little shorter, since hot water for showers is a big chunk of your water heating usage. Installing low-flow showerheads can also slash water and heating bills.
If during summer and winter your bills are still high, there are other, bigger issues, going on in the house (maybe you have a teenager taking extra long showers?). Bring a plumbing and HVAC expert to inspect the house to figure out what’s going on.
4. Step Up Your Home Insulation
Poor insulation lets in chilly drafts and makes the heating system work harder. It’s important to fix that and seal gaps and cracks. Walk around the house’s windows and doors with a candle on a windy day to find the leaks.
When you do locate the leaks, caulk your windows, seal your baseboards and add draft stoppers and weather stripping to your doors (even pipe insulation cut in half works for the bottom). If that’s not enough, wrap your water heater or furnace pipes to keep the warmth from escaping – if they’re not already insulated.
5. Make the Most of Your Curtains
Curtains don’t just hang there looking good – they can also help you save energy. During the winter, keep the drapes open wide during the day to let in as much sunshine as possible. That helps warm your home and keeps some of the load off your heating system during the day (which should be set low anyway, if you’re at work). Then at night, keep curtains closed to help retain the heat.
6. Update Your Appliances
Older heating equipment isn’t as efficient as newer appliances, even if they’re not labeled as “energy efficient.” However, so many are designed that way now. If you have old gas appliances, you may save big bucks on heating repair services by upgrading to an Energy Star furnace or water heater, which use less energy — and money — to keep your house warm.
7. Maintain Your Furnace
If you have a gas furnace in your home, it’s easy to forget to maintain it — especially if you only use it a few months of the year. Giving it some timely TLC will keep it operating more efficiently. When you first turn it on, give it a quick once over with a vacuum to get rid of dust.
Next, check the circulating fan belt in the furnace. Inspect it for obvious wear and tear, and push down in the center to check for correct tension. It should feel taut with only about half an inch of give. If it’s loose, move the motor assembly back enough so the belt tightens.
Inspect the flue pipe to be sure it’s connected properly and venting to the outside of the house. Apply soap bubbles to any accessible gas connections to check for leaks.
The most important thing to do to lower your heating bill though is to replace air filters regularly when the furnace is in use. Old filters don’t let air pass through as easily, which uses up more energy.
8. Maximize Your Oven’s Power
When you cook or bake, it warms up your kitchen. After using the oven, keep the oven door open to allow the warm air to continue circulating throughout your house.
9. Watch Your Vents
Walk around the inside of your house and make sure no heating vents and return air openings are blocked. Look outside for any large debris or tree foliage around your outdoor unit. Keep the area clear around the outdoor unit for proper airflow through the outdoor coil to maximize the efficiency of the system.
10. Conduct an Energy Audit
If your heating bill still seems too high, start a home heating audit with a professional to see where you can make further improvements to lower your energy expenditure. Consider it heating help and air advice for your home.