It is cold here. Really, really cold.
During the day, I usually turn the temperature in our house down fairly low. I work on the top floor, where it’s usually a few degrees warmer than other parts of the house, and I wear layers of clothes and warm socks. Because of that, I usually feel fine when I turn the house temperature down to about 58 during the day, raising it back up in the afternoon so that everyone’s warm in other parts of the house.
Even with the temperature that low, the furnace is still kicking on with impressive regularity.
Luckily, we are in a position where we can easily afford to turn up the heat a little bit if necessary. When I was growing up, though, there would be ice on the windows on cold mornings and I remember hanging up blankets to help keep heat in certain parts of the house. When Sarah and I shared a small apartment at the start of our marriage, the small baseboard heaters and the poor insulation meant that many areas of our apartment were really cold, no matter what we did.
Whether it’s simply a desire to keep warm at a reasonable cost or a genuine need to keep energy bills low, most of us can use some tactics for keeping household temperatures in a good place without breaking the bank.
Here are five tactics I’ve used time and time again to save money on our winter energy bills – in fact, I’ve used almost all of these this winter already.
Look for where cold air is coming from and seal it
Whenever you’re walking near a door or a window and you notice cold air seeping in, you’re noticing a big problem with your electric bill. Those little leaks are the places where warm air is rushing out of your home and your furnace has to work overtime to replace it.
If you find a leak like that in your home, close that leak. If it’s on the floor, cover it with cloth. Rolling up a rug works great for blocking air flow under a door. If it’s around a window, use some caulk to seal it up. This is easy and if you don’t know how, ask at your local hardware store and they’ll show you. You can also add metal strips to the edge of doors to cover any leaky edges.
Keep that warm air inside and you keep money in your pocket.
Cover any large windows
If you have any large windows, it’s likely that heat is exiting your home right through them. This is particularly true if you happen to notice ice on that window on cold mornings.
If that’s the case, consider covering those windows with a window insulation kit, like this one. These kits add a piece of plastic to the window which drastically increases the R-value of the window (meaning that less heat flows through them and more heat stays in your house where it belongs). They’re easy to install and take down in the spring.
Completely close off unused rooms
If you have any rooms that are unused or rarely used, consider completely closing them off.
Go into the room and completely close any vents in there. If there are any windows, cover them thoroughly. Then, after you leave, make sure that there’s no air flow under the door.
While this won’t cause a huge dip in your energy bill, it will certainly help, particularly at first. Depending on how much insulation is in your interior walls, you’ll find that room can be quite a bit colder than the rest of the house, meaning you’re saving the cost of raising the temperature of the room that much.
Dress in layers at home
When it’s just our family at home, we keep the temperature fairly low. Everyone wears long sleeves with a t-shirt under it, long pants, and heavy socks, and often another layer of clothes beyond that. If we’re doing something sedentary, like watching a movie, we all use blankets.
Thanks to those moves, it feels perfectly fine to keep the temperature a bit lower than we otherwise would have. If anyone feels cold at all, there’s no problem raising the temperature, of course, but everyone generally feels quite comfortable.
You don’t have to run your furnace on full blast all winter long if you prepare for it.
Set your ceiling fans to run clockwise and run them gently
You should set all of the ceiling fans in your home to run clockwise and then run them on low during the winter. Yes, ceiling fans in the winter.
Why? In most rooms, it’s several degrees warmer near the ceiling than the floor. Ideally, you want to redistribute that heat throughout the room so that it feels better near the floor (where your feet are). Most ceiling fans do that on clockwise mode. (On the other hand, fans on counterclockwise have the opposite effect, as they try to keep hot air near the top of the room and cause the cooler air to move around the whole room as much as possible).
It’s usually easy to switch modes. Most fans have a little switch on them that can change the direction of the blades.
Collectively, all of these moves go a long way toward reducing your heating expenses. Many of these moves have great synergy with each other, causing them to work better in concert than separately.
Good luck, and stay warm!