Save Money on Your Heating Bill



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heater thermostat

I have heard the same basic 5-10 tips on how to save money on heat and I’m sure you have, too– tips like “make sure all of your windows are caulked” or “turn down your thermostat”. Many of us proudly decide, “This is the winter I am turning my thermostat way down”. One hour into the day you are so cold and miserable you give up and turn it back up again.

You need to have a plan so that you really know what you are doing in order to succeed, just like you do with anything else. I am going to give you some tips today to help you do that, but these aren’t for the faint of heart. You need to be serious about saving money or wanting to get out of debt. These are the things I had to do when my heat either was turned off or I didn’t have enough money to pay a big bill. Those were in the days before you could use credit cards to pay your bills and the companies didn’t have all of those special “programs” for helping you to pay your bill. You either paid your bill or you did without heat entirely.

Take a deep breath, be brave and try one or all of these tips to help lower you heating bill. Some of the tips may seem extreme but there is nothing to say you can’t modify them to fit your needs. If you practice only part of each tip you will still be one step farther along.

  • Dress appropriately and not for your own comfort. So many people wear short sleeve t-shirts around their homes in the dead of winter. Wear flannel shirts and sweaters or, even better, wear 2-3 layers of clothes and include them all. It isn’t unusual for me to wear a tank top, long sleeve t-shirt, flannel shirt and a sweater on top of that. That’s 4 layers.

    Practice the same habit at night. Stop wearing just a t shirt or your summer jammies. Get out the flannel nightgown (your husband will love you anyway). I even wear a long sleeve t-shirt under that. When things were really bad and I had no heat at night at all (amazing I lived to tell about it), I would wear a stocking hat because so much heat goes out of the top of your head.

  • Of course, if you have babies or elderly family members you will have to set the heat higher but you might not need it as high as think. When my kids were young, we had sleepers made out of blanket material. You have the same thing now but are more often made of fleece or something similar. Instead of using sleepers for pajamas, we would put on a onesy or t shirt, heavy pajamas, socks and booties and then top it all with a sleeper, which was more like a blanket than pajamas.

    In some cases, we would top the sleeper with what we called a sleeping sack, which had little mitten like things for their hands. Then we topped it all with a cap. Boy, that made it fun changing a nighttime diaper, especially one that had leaked. Like I said, these ideas are not for the faint of heart.

  • Wear socks and slippers. Put on 1-2 pairs of socks and a warm pair of slippers.

  • This may seem obvious but use throws and shawls. Sitting in the evening, I can get chilly. Just laying a throw over my lap and feet can instantly warm me up. I have trouble with snuggies. They seem to get in my way, so I find that a throw and a shawl over my shoulders works better. I know your big he-man husband or son could not handle a shawl, but keep a warm zip up sweat shirt handy for them.

  • I love wearing mittens without the fingers. When I first started doing this, I was surprised how something so small could warm me up so much. At times I have been so cold I was going to turn up my heat but instead I put on my mittens. These are especially great when using the computer, hand sewing, reading and other tasks where you use your hands frequently.

  • Drink a warm drink. You might have heard this tip over the years, but it really does work. Sometimes, in the evening, if I start to feel really chilled, I will make myself some coffee or tea. Even holding the hot mug before I start drinking warms me right up.



  • Close off rooms. I mean, seriously, close off all the rooms you can. At one point, we had no gas, so we had to move into two smaller rooms of the house– the kitchen and another 9×9 room next to it. The kids slept on pallets on the kitchen floor which we had to pick up each morning and move. I slept on the couch in the small room. We had a door that shut us off from the rest of the house. It was a mad dash each morning to the cold part of the house to grab the clothes we needed for the day or anything else from back there but, once again, we lived.

    (If you don’t need to use a bathroom and you close it off, be careful about closing off bathrooms where there is plumbing on an outside wall because if your house isn’t well insulated and it’s super cold outside you don’t want to risk having it freeze. That would cost more than your savings! ;-) )

    Most of you won’t have to be quite as drastic as we were, but I tell you these things to let you know that even if it is inconvenient to shut off a room or two, you won’t die from it. If your rooms are more open and you have no doors, then hang blankets across doorways.

  • Decorate with darker or warm colors and lots of heavier, fuzzy warm fabrics. This doesn’t make things warmer but, mentall,y it really makes a difference.

What not to do:

Be careful using small electric heaters to warm small areas, thinking you are saving by using those. Depending on where you live, the price of your gas or electricity in the area and the age of the heater, it might cost you more to run the electric heater in that one room than to heat the whole house with gas. Like I said, it depends on where you live. For example, in Idaho, electricity was much cheaper than in Kansas so I could heat my whole house inexpensively with a little heater. When I moved back to Kansas and tried that, I almost had a heart attack after I received my first electric bill.

Note: Besides the cost and energy savings, there are a few added bonuses when lowering your heat:

  • Less static electricity

  • You usually don’t have to use a humidifier

  • Your nose and throat aren’t usually as dry all the time, which is supposed to help prevent or reduce sinus infections and other respiratory problems

  • Your lips and skin won’t get as dry

  • Your eyes won’t get as dry. Recently, when I was visiting family, my eyes became red and hurt so badly that I thought I was going to have to go to the eye doctor when I got home, but it turned out they hurt because they were dried out.

I know different areas of the country are more humid than others and that other factors affect dry eyes and sinuses but, no matter where I have lived, I have had less difficulty with these issues than friends and family who lived in the same area.

-Jill

Here are some other similar articles you might like:

Where Do We Begin to Catch Up on Debt?

Tips For Reducing Your Electric Bill

 

Photo By: C Jill Reed

Comments

  1. Barbara says

    I’ve been turning the heat all the way off at night. Our bedrooms tend to get too warm. I’m finding that I sleep better without it. I check Weather dot com to make sure it won’t be cold enough to freeze pipes, and then turn it off. An electric mattress pad helps if it really gets cold. You’re also right about layering clothes. Lots of times when I feel a little chilly, I’ll look down at myself and realize I don’t have a sweater on. Two long-sleeved layers seems to be enough for me. Thank the Lord for the nice warm winter we’ve had!

    Anyway, these are good tips!

  2. Maggie says

    I wear old sweat pants and sweat shirt to bed in the winter. Also, knee socks and I found some wonderful little slippers at Bath and Body Works for $5 which I wear over the socks. They keep my feet so toasty and when my feet are warm, I am warm. We have a big old house and keep the thermostat at 64 degrees day and night. My husband is at home during the day so he needs the heat. Every chair and sofa in our home has a throw on the back. Wherever you sit, if you get chilly, just toss the throw over your legs. My sister gave me a shawl that is perfect for a cold evening of tv watching. It is so long that it covers my legs when I am sitting down. It is polyester with wool and really fits the bill. We have gas – forced hot water with old-time radiators. Our bill is less now because we keep the temperature at a constant number.

    • says

      Oh Maggie I love hot water heating. We had the same thing in my old house and I loved that heat. When I first moved in I thought how ugly were those old radiators and it wasn’t until much later I learned just how wonderful they are. The heat they put off is so much nicer, less drying and no noise at all besides I could dry my laundry on them, warm up towels and all sorts of things. I loved loved loved them.

  3. Maggie says

    My kids loved the radiators. We used to put their pajamas on the radiator while they were taking their baths and they got to hop into nice warm pj’s. I still do that on some extra cold winter nights for my own pj’s. They are also great for the last bit of drying of jeans and socks. Why run the dryer for 2 pair of jeans when only the pockets are still damp. We can dry off the wet newspaper,too, without catching the house on fire. They are big and somewhat ugly without covers but we like them.

  4. grizzly bear mom says

    I wear sweat shirt, sweat pants and t shirts all winter. I keep an afghan on the sofa and turn the heat to 65 during the day and 55 at night. I stay well bcause its not dry.

    When I visit my mom’s heated house I get sick because its so dry and has 10 cats, to which I am allergic.

  5. says

    I keep the furnace set at 68 we have 2 kerosene heaters one upstairs to heat my freezing husband and one downstairs for the entire downstairs.
    When he is day shift the heaters are off and just the furnace goes.
    I wear pj pants in velour and a t shirt around the house sometimes I even put socks on.
    At night the heaters are not on just the furnace.
    I sleep with a tshirt on.
    We have 2 comforters on the bed but when I am alone I get under only one.
    Grew up in a house with no heat except the living room and kitchen.
    I can’t sleep when it is hot but I do start the night under blankets when Don is home. By morning they are gone to his side of the bed. They are too hot and heavy for me.
    Yesterday I tried on a summer long kaftan and instead of taking it off when I found it fit me I wore it most of the day. Got into something warmer about 4 but until then I was quite comfortable.
    No, it isn’t a Canadian thing because most people would look at me like I was crazy.
    Just hate the heat and like the cold.

    • says

      It is so funny that you mentioned it’s not a Canada thing. I was watching our church service the other day which was in Florida and they were laughing because everyone had coats and heavy sweaters on because it had turned so cold there. As bundled up as they all were I thought it must really be freezing. I checked the temp there and it was 67 degrees. I started laughing at the difference. Here in Kansas when it hits the 60′s we start peeling off the layers but there in Florida they start putting them on.

      It reminded me of an exchange student from Sweden we had. In March when the temps were in the 60′s she pulled all of her shorts out. We teased her about how our spring weather was like a heat wave for her.

  6. says

    mom is in florida each winter and one year she said she almost felt naked at church.
    She had a light sweater on over a summer outfit and thought it was fine. Got to church and all the old ladies had on mink coats.
    Talked to her this week and she says the weather is beautiful at the mid 70′s.
    My son freaks out his students in China. They wear coats to class because of the cold and he is in a Tshirt and sweating.
    One spring my son was living and working in Toronto which is in southern Ont. his coworkers were in winter coats and he was in a long sleeved shirt.
    All in your attitude I guess.
    Mom and dad bought a trailer in Florida and then my dad got skin cancer. I once asked since he can’t sit in the sun why did they go to florida. His answer was he needed the heat. He was always cold and even in the summer wore long underwear shirts.
    So I am glad his last few years he actually got to enjoy the warmth year round.

  7. Maggie says

    I moved to Maine with my first husband in Sept 1968. Of course, here in VA it was still hot and we were wearing shorts. When I got there, I put on wool slacks and sweaters, while the family that lived there full-time was wearing shorts. It was in the 50′s at that time. But by spring, after a winter of 20 below zero, I was ripping off my coat and glad to see light weight clothes and tee shirts. It’s all in what you are used to. My husband and I are taking a trip to AZ in Feb to see my sister. She says it is okay there (60-70 by mid-Feb). I am ready for tee shirts, she is wearing long pants and flannel shirts. For us, we are eagerly looking forward to the WARM weather.
    My mom used to say that the blood thickens in the winter to keep you warmer and if the temp drops below what you are used to, you will be cold. Don’t know if that is the true scientific reason but it makes sense to me.

  8. Katie says

    I live in Los Angeles. It’s cool here during the winter, but sometimes it’s downright cold.

    I bundle up in layers to deal with it. If I’m just watching TV, I do so with a blanket (beats turning on the heater).

  9. Kris says

    Here are a few things I do to stay warmer in the winter:

    Those hot packs that you can throw in the microwave for a couple of minutes (for sore muscles) work great as bedwarmers–or to cuddle up with under a throw if you are reading/watching tv.

    I like to drink hot tea and find it’s most efficient to boil a kettle in the morning and fill a carafe with hot water. It stays hot all day and cuts down on unnecessary stove usage. Came in handy once during a power outage, too!

    I haven’t seen it mentioned anywhere else on this website, but I LOVE LOVE LOVE flannel sheets.

    Dig out those long johns. Seriously.

    • says

      Yes the long johns are great and I have found too that by wearing even a long sleeve t shirt under my pj’s makes a big difference. Talk about the whole world now knowing the intimate details of my life now. : ) : )

  10. Sandi P says

    Here in Southern California I only had the heat on for 2 days this winter, and that’s the way it’s been for years. When it’s been cold, we’ve just put on more layers. When I lived in Germany as a young wife and mother, I bought several warm sweaters that I hardly ever used. Everywhere we lived there had radiators, and they kept the houses very toasty in the cold snowy weather. I wore shorts all summer, and wasn’t nearly as cold as I had expected. I still keep sweaters, shawls, and lap blankets on hand, and have a trunk filled with hardly used blankets because I’ve found weather to be very unpredictable. I did give several blankets to a shelter this winter, but I’m not getting rid of all of them.

  11. Angie M. says

    Has anyone had experience with electric baseboard heaters?

    We bought a house over the summer and moved in last month. It’s odd that the house was built new in 1988 and the builders put in ducts for a central air unit but then put electric baseboard heaters in every room. Since they were putting in ducts and bought an air handler for the a/c unit anyway, I’m not sure why they didn’t just buy a furnace also.

    The people that lived there before us had lots of cats and my husband is allergic to cats. So, before we moved in, I had a heating/air technician come out and clean all of the ducts. I asked him about buying a heat pack for the air handler so we could just have forced electric heat. Besides the $300- $600 cost for the heat pack, he said we would also have to call an electrician about rewiring because the air handler is only wired for cooling and not heating.

    We don’t have the money for all of that this year since we had some remodeling and repairs that really needed done before we moved in. Then we had some moving costs. We were very frugal and careful but you know how it all adds up so quickly! We are stuck with the electric baseboard heaters for at least this winter.

    I wasn’t worried about it at first. My dad even told me he thought baseboard heat is reasonably energy efficient. It’s just started getting down into the 30′s at night here and I’ve had to start using the heat. I was doing some online research this morning and I’m reading that the cost of electric baseboard heat is very high! Now I’m worried! Of course, I was reading most of this on the energy.gov website and it seems like they are pushing heat pumps and geothermal systems.

    So, I’m wondering if anyone actually has some real life experience with using electric baseboard heat? Is it really that expensive? Should I start budgeting a lot of extra money now for our winter electric bills? I would appreciate any input! :)

    • says

      Angie I haven’t had the electric baseboards but I have used was electric heat before. One of the main things I found was where you live and what are the prices for electricity. I had electric heat in Idaho because we couldn’t even get gas where I lived and it wasn’t to bad or any worse then the a/c I had in Kansas but if I had to have electric heat here in Kansas I think it would be about twice that of what my gas heat is.

      If you find it is getting too high you can do some things like closing off and not heating rooms you don’t use during the day except of course the rooms where you have water pipes like the bathroom and kitchen but rooms like extra bedrooms, offices, dining rooms etc. They also have free standing electric heaters that say they use very little electric and you might check into using a couple of those instead of your heater. I know this doesn’t sound like it should make a difference because they are both run on electricity but I did find in Idaho my free standing heaters didn’t use near as much as my in wall one did.

      • Angie M. says

        Jill,

        Thanks for all of the tips! I know what you are saying about the cost of the electricity. We only moved 30 miles away but are serviced by a different co-op now.

        Also, so far (knock on wood) we seem to be having lower electric bills in general. Prior to buying this house in the country, we rented a house in a small town. It had an aluminum roof (oven in the summer) and the insulation was apparently poor. The doors and windows were also drafty. We sealed everything we cout but still our electric bills in the summer (with using central air) and in the winter (with using electric furnace) were $300/month. I know…ouch!!! The bills were that much even with keeping the thermostat on 76 in the summer and 65 in the winter. It was what it was though and we just put it in the budget and went on with life. It didn’t matter so much because the landlord paid our water and trash service and that offset some of the electric cost.

        Owning our home now, we do have to pay our own water and trash so I want to keep the electric bill in check as much as possible. :) Our first electric bill in our house was $66…that was for living there 1/2 of the month…the first 1/2 we were working on it and not living there but still had the central air running and lights on when we were there, etc. Our second electric bill was $124…that was for living there a full month…running the central air and even a couple of the baseboard heaters on a couple of nights when it got down to 29 degrees. We never had bills that low in our rental house…even in moderate months when we didn’t run much a/c or heat our bills were $200 minimum. So, I’m cautiously optimistic at this point.

        We will continue to use the general tips in this article to help with our heat costs. I’ve already talked to my kids about not cranking their baseboard heaters in their rooms up to 78 degrees so they can wear shorts and t-shirts. We plan on keeping the thermostats for the bedrooms at about 68 when they are up and about and down to around 64 at night. Also, when they go to school we will probably have them turn down to 64. The living room, kitchen and dining room we will probably keep around 68 when we are in there and down to 64 at night also. We only have one bathroom with pipes on an exterior wall, so we will probably need to keep that room a little warmer when it gets really cold.

        Thanks again for all of the good advice. We are having Indian Summer right now…75 – 80 during the day and down in the 50′s at night. I love this weather when there is no need for the a/c or heat! I will try to remember to post a follow-up once we start using the baseboard heat on a regular basis and let everyone know how it’s going. :)

        • says

          It sounds like you are getting your new house pulled together and getting settled in. We are having a weird fall this year. One day we need a/c the next heat. We went from almost 90 yesterday to 50 today. I keep layering on clothes and pulling off clothes and it isn’t from hot flashes either. :)

          • Angie M. says

            LOL! We have had springs and falls like that too. It’s like the weather can’t make up it’s mind. It makes one start to think ‘Enough already! Hot or cold…pick one!’ :)

    • Carol says

      When we lived in Bremerton, Washington the duplex we rented had electric baseboard heaters. I loved them and we had a 9 month old baby at the time. I was never worried about it being warm enough for him. It would get pretty cold as I remember, in the winter and lots of snow. I found them to be quite cozy actually. As for the electric bills, it is too long ago to remember. I live in the mid-west now, and we are having a horrible winter, minus 1 last night, minus 5 the night before and suppose to be 50 on Sunday. Go figure.

      • says

        We are having the same stuff here too Carol. Hard to imagine in a couple of days it is going to be 50. When we lived in Idaho I had electric heat too and it was nice. The electric bill was about the same as what I paid for gas here in Kansas. I think electricity here is much higher then back there. Could be some kind of supply and demand thing. In Idaho we had no gas at all it wasn’t available, we even had to have an electric hot water heater but my utilities across the board seemed to balance out to about the same there as they do here. One thing too we didn’t have the ice storms or the below zero temps with wind chills there like we do here in Kansas.

        If anyone is building or putting in a heating system my all time favorite heat is hot water heat. It has a coziness kind of like Carol was talking about and there isn’t as much dryness in the air as with other types of heat.

  12. Veronica Tidd says

    We had considered geothermal but didn’t do it because of the cost and the need to drill wells rather than horizonal trenches because of the land available. Now in our new house we have installed a new propane furnace and on demand hot water heater. This is the first winter after the change from oil so don’t yet know the cost.
    I am very glad now that we passed on the geothermal because my daughter went that route and I don’t like it. We go there for Christmas and last year it did not feel very comfortable for me. The temperature was high enough but the fan was constantly on and it felt like a warm draft to me sitting around. She lives in Maryland and there were all kinds of financial incentives both State and Federal so the installation was relatively cheap.
    We live in upstate New York and keep our electric bill around $50 a month about half of which was delivery charges.
    We also pre-purchased 1200 gallons of propane so we will see. I also practice all the above advice re clothing but am married to a “typical man” Our previous house had no heat upstairs and we managed with an electric blanket.

  13. Karen says

    These are all great tips. We live at a high elevation in Wyoming and it does get cold here inthe winter. Anyway, a few years ago I discovered flannel lined jeans and have fallen in love with them! I keep the thermostat at about sixty during the day and am very comfortable. Love the jeans as I don’t like anything tight around my legs and these loose fitting. I usually wear three or four layers on top, start with a summer T shirt, a long sleeved shirt and finally a lined shirt or sweatshirt.

  14. says

    In our home we use Indian blankets to keep us warm when we are watching T.V. We found they are warmer then the average throw. We also keep our temp at 64 and we are comfortable.

    • says

      I wonder if the Indian blankets are 100% wool. I have a couple of older wool blankets. They wear like crazy and there is something about their warmth that I love.

  15. Veronica Tidd says

    You can’t beat a couple of good cats to keep you warm. I sleep under two of mine.
    Real handwoven Indian blankets should be all wool and tightly woven.
    Commercial blankets may or may not be pure wool especialy the cheaper imported items. The only Indian thing about them is the similarity of design

  16. getforfree says

    I noticed we use less electricity and nat. gas when my husband is not home. When he is away for a few days, I turn off heat completly when my older kids are in school and me and my youngest daughter dress up in sweaters and sleepers. Then kids get home and I let them play outside. When it gets dark, I start the fireplace and let them watch a movie (rented free from the library of cource)and eat dinner. Then I let my older kids to have a “sleepover” in the same room. They think it’s fun, but really it is to save the heat. I turn on a radiator heater in their room and close the door so they stay warm. I take my youngest to my room and we have another heater there. In the morning they dress up in their room and I turn the space radiator heater off again. When it’s a “bath and shower” evening, I turn the heat on an make sure I have a fireplace really hot too. They dress up near the fireplace after a bath. I also keep my water heater on a low temperature and crank it up for the shower night, and then turn it down again. I can’t really do all that when my husband is home, because he wants temp up, and hot water be available any time vs turn the temp up and wait 15 minutes.

    • says

      It is good to keep your hot water heater turned down as much as possible all the time. I have mine almost at the vacation setting on the dial. For those of you who have a wood burning stove or are considering putting in one be sure to have a fan and blower installed with it. When you have a fireplace or wood burning stove (I love the heat from these so much) it only heats up a certain area close to the stove but with a fan added to it it blows out the heat going up the chimney (which would have been wasted) into the room and I was able to warm 3-4 rooms with when a fan was added to mine. The ultimate would be to have ducts run from the chimney to other rooms which can be done but does cost more then just adding a fan.

  17. Karie says

    I installed a programable thermostat. I turn it down to just enough to keep the pipes from freezing when Im not home and up to comfortable in sweats after work/school. It saved me money and it is set to be comfortable when I get home. I also use the smart hours programs with my local utility company. I found that it made a huge difference this year.

  18. Mary Jane says

    Living in northern Canada, and in a rural setting, we put in a woodstove for our main source of heat 30 years ago. A lot of people have wood heat as back up, but ours was our only source of heat for economic reasons, for over 25 years. Our heater, chimney and set up, is all up to code, and satisfies our insurance people. However, for years, people have considered our heating as a “poor man’s” option, especially since we still cut and haul all of our own wood (approximately 8-10 cords per year). Well, we have been watching the winter weather all over eastern Canada and much of the United States, with their power outages, and have come to the conclusion that a woodstove is a luxury item, and a “wise man’s” choice, if it is at all possible to implement it. We spend no more than about $200.00 per year on gas to go and get the wood, saw it, haul it, and split it. Of course we initially had to purchase a power saw over 30 years ago, and it lasted for 29 years before it was seriously overhauled. When we didn’t have a truck, we made due with homemade utility trailers. About five years ago, we put in a wood pellet stove as back up heat, in the event that we are unable to get our firewood one year. (We are getting older, and plan on staying here). We make sure we have three tons of pellets a year, but seldom use all three tons. We need electricity to run the pellet stove. Mostly we use it in the fall and spring, but we kept the woodstove, and use it when the temperature gets below -10 degrees. We spend less than $900.00 for three tons of pellets. If we used up all of our pellets and all of our wood in a year we would spend about 1/3 of what other people spend to heat their home in this part of the country, for one year. Any way, the woodstove is a lifesaver and a blessing, especially during frequent power outages, and increasing fuel costs. Plus getting firewood is a good physical activity for us.

    • says

      We have at different times used a wood burning stove as our main source of heat too and I always loved it. As a matter of fact I have not had one in this house and have wanted to put one in here so bad because I think people are crazy not to have one for a back up although we did us ours for our main source of heat often. I was always so lucky because I didn’t have a way to get wood but God always seemed to provide it for me. Once I ran out and found out about a mill work place here in town who would let you take all the scrapes of wood you wanted for nothing. I only had the trunk of my car to haul it in and because they were only small pieces I had to keep adding wood to the fire but I was so glad to have even that. Then another year I got a bunch of wood pallets that we cut up to use. It was a pain because cleaning the ashes out with all the nails in it was no fun but it didn’t cost me anything so I wasn’t going to complain.
      Anyway I am with you all the way in saying that wood burning stoves are so nice. The heat is really warm and toasty from them too.

  19. Magdalen says

    Some good advice, here. Thanks.
    A few years ago a friend went to Australia fora few months to watch the cricket,-it was their summer and of course our winter.He had left the heating on tick over to avoid burst pipes. Unfortunately he’d shut the trap door into the attic and that’s where the water tank was. You can guess what happened. He was insured but a lot of damage was done and it was months before he could get back to live in his house.

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