How to stop throwing away money on your heating bills this winter

Rose Bak

It's easier than you think to keep warm throughout the coldest months.

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Winter is barrelling towards us. The leaves have fallen. There’s frost on the car windows in the morning. And the furnace is kicking on. That sound, you hear? It’s the sound of your bank account draining with every blast of heat coming through your vents.

Looking to save some cash on heat this winter? Put on your sweater and try these simple strategies to reduce your heating costs:

Seal those leaks

Walk around and check out every door and window in your house. Can you feel a little breeze? Not only is cold weather coming into the house, but heat is going literally out the window. Spend a few hours sealing up your windows and doors, and you’ll make a big impact on your heating bills.

Some things you can do to seal leaks:

  • Buy some weather stripping from the hardware or home improvement store. It’s generally easy to install and relatively inexpensive. Install around doors and windows. Don’t forget doors to the attic, crawlspace, basement, or garage.
  • Buy “door sweeps” for exterior and basement doors and doors that connect to the garage. Door sweeps are nifty little attachments that connect to the bottom of the door to keep drafts out. Most doors have a pretty good size gap on the bottom, and sealing them up can help significantly.
  • Use foam or caulk to seal in cracks around your window and door frames. It’s super easy to use; just point and shoot.
  • Roll up a towel or thick piece of fabric and place on the bottom of windows and in front of the door jambs to block the draft.
  • Cover windows with plastic. It looks tacky but works great. You can get pre-cut kits from the hardware or home improvement store.

Candles: not just for ambiance

One of the quickest ways to take a chill off a room is to light some candles. Scatter tea lights, pillars, or votive candles around your living space in groups of three or four to generate some heat. Some important reminders about candles:

  • Remember that candles get hot. Only put your candles on top of or inside appropriate containers. The heat from the candles might break certain kinds of glass or melt plastic and other materials.
  • Never leave candles unattended.
  • Keep candles out of reach of children or pets.
  • Avoid using scented candles, which can create indoor air quality issues.

Give your furnace some love

Keeping your furnace maintained will increase its efficiency and save you money in the long run. Here are some suggestions to help ensure that your furnace works at its best:

  • Get a furnace tune-up once a season. The technician can check for inefficiencies, leaks, clogged filters, and other issues that impact furnace performance.
  • Replace your furnace filter once a month. Don’t skimp; get a good quality filter that is the appropriate size and type for your unit. Put a reminder on your calendar, so you don’t forget.
  • Get your ducts and vents cleaned every 3–5 years. Cleaning your internal ductwork will help make sure that all the heat your furnace puts out actually gets into your living spaces. It also helps reduce dust and dander that gets pumped out. Most furnaces also vent to the outside of your house, either through a vent or your fireplace. Get these cleaned as well to help increase efficiency and reduce hazards.
  • If your furnace is old, consider upgrading to a newer, more energy-efficient model. Many states have tax credits and other incentives to replace your old monster furnace with something new and more efficient. My heating oil bill went down about 30% when I replaced my 50-year-old furnace with a newer model.

Downsize your living space

Close the heating vents and shut up any rooms you don’t typically use. There’s no sense in heating a guest room or craft room that’s not in use every day. Only pay to heat the rooms where you spend a lot of time. Put a towel or a draft guard around the door to any room you’re not using.

Do some baking

If you have ever cooked a large holiday meal, you know how much heat is generated when you’re cooking or baking something in your kitchen. Unlike the summer when it’s better to use the stove, oven, and dishwasher early in the morning or late at night, in winter, it can be a nice way to take the edge off the cold in the room. Note: only use these appliances as directed and never run the oven with the door open.

Use a space heater

Strategic use of a space heater can help you stay warm, especially if your place has high ceilings, lots of windows, or is otherwise hard to keep warm. Space heaters have improved dramatically over the last twenty years. While they still use a lot of electricity, they are much safer and more efficient than they were in the past. Many have thermostat controls and automatic shut-offs to help you keep a consistent temperature. Just be sure to keep kids and pets away from your space heaters, as they are generally quite hot to the touch. Remember: you should never leave space heaters unattended.

Gear up

If you’re running around barefoot and wearing shorts indoors, there’s a good reason you’re cold. You can keep your thermostat lower by dressing appropriately for winter, including:

  • Keeping your feet covered with slippers or thick socks.
  • Dress in layers. Wear a t-shirt under your shirt or sweater. A warm core helps keep the rest of you warm.
  • Invest in long underwear. Forget about the bulky longjohns of your youth. Today’s thermal underwear is thin and made of special fabrics that help keep the heat close to your body without making you sweat.
  • Use a snuggie, a throw blanket, a poncho, or a scarf for extra warmth.

If all else fails, get up and get moving. If you’re cold right now, you’ll warm up quickly if you start vacuuming or scrubbing the bathroom. When you’re done, try snuggling your significant other or your dog; that always keeps me warm. And remember, summer is only six months away!

#money #homeimprovement #budgeting #winter

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Rose Bak is a freelance writer who lives in Portland, Oregon with her family and special needs dogs. She writes on a variety of topics including local news, homelessness, poverty, relationships, yoga, and aging. She is also a published author of romantic fiction. For more of Rose's work, visit her website at rosebakenterprises.com or follow her on social media @AuthorRoseBak.

Portland, OR
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