15 Tips for Reducing Home Heating Costs

With gas prices on the rise this winter, here are some money-saving tips to keep in mind for the cold weather ahead.

1. Dress for Cold Weather

Dress in layers; slap a pair of slippers on your feet, and add a hat to complete your warm ensemble. Serve warm drinks, not cold cocktails, when entertaining or relaxing.

2. Decorate for Warmth

When it's cold outside, nothing says money in the bank like a house that's blinged out in warm accessories. Put flannel sheets on your bed, rugs on your floors, insulated curtains in your windows, and warm blankets on your sofa.

3. Use the Sun

Open curtains during the day to allow the sun to warm your home, then close curtains at night to trap in the heat. On the sides of the home where there is good sun exposure, keep trees and shrubs pruned away so the windows can receive full sunlight.

4. Reduce the Use of Vent Fans

Fans suck out undesirable smells and moisture, but they also suck out a lot of hot air from your home. In the winter, don't run your kitchen or bathroom vent fans unless there is a need. Because winter air is already quite dry, there may be no need to vent a bathroom after every shower. In kitchens, use the vent fan sporadically in the winter, though you should still take care to properly vent when you are cooking with gas-burning appliances.

5. Change Furnace Filters Regularly

A dirty filter makes your furnace/heat pump work harder and leads to super scary numbers on your heating bill. Aim to swap the filters out once a month. A variety of electrostatic filters are now available that also trap allergens or even pathogens such as viruses. These cannot work effectively, though, unless they are changed regularly.

6. Run Ceiling Fans in Reverse

Hot air rises, so run your ceiling fan in reverse to push the warm air back down to floor level. Most ceiling fans have switches that allow you to change the direction of the motor rotation. A slow fan speed is best, as it will gently push warm air down without creating unpleasant drafts.

7. Turn Down the Thermostat

A couple of degrees cooler when you're away or asleep can make a big difference on your heating bill (without any sacrifice from you). Savings of 10 to 12 percent are possible if you run your system 5 to 10 degrees cooler at night or when you are away from the home. Installing a simple programmable thermostat or learning thermostat can allow you do this automatically.

8. Get an Energy Audit

You won't find many doctors that make house calls these days, but you'll still find plenty of energy auditors that do. Schedule an energy audit for your home (many utility companies offer them for free or a small fee), and find out where you could improve the efficiency of your home. Using a special thermal meter, the technician can pinpoint the areas of heat loss. The technician will also review your appliances for energy efficiency.

9. Add Insulating

Plug your zip code into the Department of Energy's insulation tool to find out how much insulation your home needs. Then, beef up your existing insulation as needed. Solutions can include having blow-in insulation added to walls without enough insulation, laying down an attic blanket of fiberglass insulation batts, sealing windows and doors with new weather stripping, and insulating electrical boxes with foam gaskets.

10. Give Vents the All Clear

Move all furniture and belongings away from your heating vents, so they can deliver all that heat that you're paying for. Couches or other furniture blocking heating vents makes the furnace work harder to deliver warm air, increasing the running time and energy cost.

Also make sure the heat registers and dampers are fully open to allow for the full flow of warm air.

11. Close the Fireplace Damper

Keep the damper closed when your fireplace isn't in use to prevent all that snuggly warm air in your home from making a quick exit up the chimney. Also, be aware that any use of an open wood-burning fireplace may cause a net energy loss in your home—more energy escapes up the chimney than is added to the home through burning wood.

If you can't live without the crackling flames, converting an open fireplace with a glass-doored insert will make a wood-burning fireplace more efficient and minimize heat loss from the home.

12. Get a Furnace Tune-Up

Keep your furnace or heat pump running at peak performance by having it tuned up by a professional once a year. It's a small expense that could lead to big savings. Among other things, the furnace technician will check the burners and exhaust vents to make sure they are working at top efficiency. Often, simply cleaning the burners can make a noticeable difference in your energy costs.

13. Wrap Vent Ducts

Vent fans lose a considerable amount of heat into attics by radiating it through the ductwork. Wrapping those ducts with foil-faced fiberglass insulation can dramatically reduce the amount of heat loss through those ducts.

14. Replace an Old Furnace

Breakups are never easy, but if you've been with your heating unit for a long time, it may be time to put an end to the relationship. Although the initial investment may seem prohibitive, you'll be surprised at how fast a high-efficiency furnace can pay for itself when compared to an old conventional furnace. There may also be tax incentives available if you replace an old furnace with a high-efficiency model.

15. Negotiate Better Energy Rates

Do you feel like you're paying too much for electricity, gas, or oil? Then, shop around for a better rate. As long as you live in a deregulated state, there's plenty of room to negotiate. Your state (or your energy company) may also have homeowner assistance available, depending on your income level.

Source: The Spruce