"Here we are, noticing our summer tans fading, dark roots growing out from our scalps, and waiting for the first winter snow fall amidst the freezing rain and blowing wind. Winter is rearing its ugly head and so are heating costs. The television and web are full of great ideas on how to save money on energy costs, but more often than not it takes money to save money. For many, spending money on major home improvement projects to make a home more energy efficient just isn’t in the cards this year.
I am here to tell you that you still have options. You do not have to spend a bunch of money to cut your heating costs. Below you will find nine tips on how to save money on energy bills without breaking the bank. Each tip should cost from nothing to very little. Follow these ideas that all of us should have thought of a decade ago, and say good-bye to shocking heating bills.
- Bundle up! Running around with shorts and a tank top in the middle of winter just doesn’t make much sense. Winter is winter because it is cold, so act like it even if you’re just sitting around the house. Put on a sweater or sweatshirt, wear socks and fuzzy slippers. Place a soft, comfy blanket on the couch to cuddle up in while watching TV, reading or chatting with friends. Put throw rugs on hardwood and tile floors to eliminate the shock of the ice cold surfaces. It doesn’t cost anything to wear warmer clothes inside and by doing so you can keep the temperature inside the house a few degrees cooler and save big.
- Not all doors are used in the winter, nor are the windows, so plastic up the windows and doors that are going to go unused. There are window kits for sale for about $5 per window. These can help to eliminate drafts to keep in the heat! Can’t afford the kits or plastic sheeting? Hang blankets to help insulate! If you are creative enough, you can hang it to look shabby chic!
- Turn the heat down at night and when no one is home. This doesn’t mean turn the heat to 40 degrees, but turning it down to 60 overnight or while you’re away can make a big difference. Think about it; why keep it 70 degrees when you’re either sleeping or out of the house for more than 12 hours a day? You can adjust the thermostat manually for free, but if you want to spend a few bucks a programmable thermostat is a great investment.
- After baking cookies or making dinner in the oven, leave the door open a crack. There’s a lot of heat in that oven, so letting it escape puts the heat to good use by warming up the kitchen and surrounding rooms meaning the furnace has to run a little bit less.
- Use a space heater only in the current room you are hanging out in. This will take the nip out of the air to make you feel more comfortable without heating all of the other rooms in the house and wasting energy.
- Use silicone to fill any cracks in doors, windows, etc, including the basement floor and walls. You would be surprised at how much heat is lost through cracks that seem insignificant. A tube of caulk or silicone will only run you a few dollars and it’s an easy weekend project.
- Close any vents going to rooms that are not used regularly. That guest room that sits empty when you don’t have any guests? Close the door and the vents. Doing so can easily cut 100-200 square feet off of your energy footprint.
- Put weather stripping around windows and doors. Weather stripping helps quite a bit, especially in older homes. You’d be surprised how the seals around your doors and windows can deteriorate over time.
- Cover up the attic entry with plastic, pieces of insulation, old blankets, weather stripping, saran wrap, painter drop cloth, or even a few old shirts. Any of it will help to slow, if not, stop, the drafts and warm air from floating away through your roof. Heat rises and may be getting pulled right up through the attic so you may not notice a cold draft even though your expensive hot air is floating away.
At our house we often turn off the heating during the night and set a timer to switch it back on about an hour before we get up in the morning. This works great for us and saves money. We also make sure we leave the oven slightly open after cooking, it really does work to heat up the kitchen a little.
To take the chill off overnight we slow burn a log of wood and run an efficient electric heater for about an hour in the morning and the same of an evening. The rest of the time heating comes from a slow burn combustion heater designed to be very efficient and low smoke output. Our windows are double glazed, our hot water runs a gas heating system so we don’t run out. We put extra insulation in the ceiling cavity (which keeps things cool in summer) but warm in winter. Whenever it’s sunny we make sure that we let plenty of light into the house as this helps with heating and the double glazed glass allows heat in but not back out.
There are a million resources on the Internet that will give you great ideas to cut power costs over winter. Some of the solutions however do require some significant dollars to be invested. Solar power is fantastic but it takes about 7 years to get back your investment dollars in savings. Do your research and see what you can come up with to suit your specific environment and family needs.