The dreaded winter heating bill. Second only to the summer cooling bill in terms of electricity costs. That’s why we’ve created these tips on how to keep warm in the winter without busting your budget.
The first place to start is at the thermostat. Many people heat their home to too high a temperature…bringing us to this important question: What’s the best temperature to keep my house at in the winter?
What is the best temperature to keep my house at in the winter?
The easiest way to stay comfortable in the winter without costing yourself a fortune is to control your thermostat settings:
- If someone is at home in the daytime, 72° is a good start, but aim for 68°. Drop the temperature by one degree each week, to allow your body to acclimate to the lower temperature.
- If everyone is away from home in the daytime, or when you’re asleep at night, aim for a goal of 58° to 60°. Sounds cold, but once you’re cuddled under the covers, you’ll sleep great. Studies show it’s the best temperature for sleep.
According to Energy.gov, turning your thermostat back by 10° for the eight hours you are at work, and the eight hours you are asleep can save around 10% a year on your heating and cooling bills.
A programmable thermostat makes it easy to keep your home at the right temperature. Here’s a sample winter schedule for your programmable thermostat:
6 a.m. to 9 a.m. = 68 degrees
9 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. = 60 degrees
5:30 to 11 p.m. = 68 degrees
11 p.m. to 6 a.m. = 60 degrees
Top 12 Ways to Save on Winter Heating Costs
In addition to setting your thermostat properly for winter, here are the top 12 ways to save on winter heating costs for your home.
- Find the leaks. Perform a DIY Home Energy Audit at the start of the heating season. You will quickly find leaks in your home. These are places where you are losing heat from your home, and where the cold air is coming in. Common areas for air leaks include windows, doors and plumbing.
- Control humidity. Dry winter air pulls moisture from your skin, making you feel colder. Instead of turning up the heat, use a humidifier to keep your home humidity between 30 and 50%. You’ll be able to keep your thermostat on a lower setting without feeling cold.
- Seal Windows with Plastic. Seal windows from the inside using commercially available clear plastic film and your hair dryer. This plastic will create a barrier to prevent drafts and heat loss through the windows. Leaky windows can account for 10 to 25 percent of your winter heating costs.
- Use Removable Caulk. Don’t like the look of plastic film on your windows? Instead, use removable caulk. Caulk around the edges of the window to create a tight seal. When Spring comes around, simply remove the caulk and discard.
- Check Your Electric Bill. If you are in a deregulated energy market, check your bill to see if you are on a month to month variable rate. If you are, you should shop for a cheaper electricity plan and lock in savings before the cold weather hits. Bonus: electricity contract rates are typically cheaper in the winter.
- Don’t Use the Fireplace. A roaring fire looks beautiful on a cold night. But as much as 80% of the heat produced rises up the chimney. And as it goes, it pulls cold air in to the house through any window or door gap. If you use your fireplace to heat your home, consider getting a gas or wood-burning stove to replace the open hearth.
- Dress for the Weather. The goal isn’t to keep the house warm. The goal is to keep you comfortable inside the house. Put on a sweater. Wear slippers. Your mother was right.
- Block the Fireplace Flue. An open fireplace flue is the equivalent of keeping a window open in your house. Even when closed, air will leak out around the flue. A fireplace flue blocker or a chimney balloon can effectively block the draft. It’s easily removed if you want to start a fire.
- Fill the Gaps. Don’t have time for a home energy audit? We’ll short-cut it for you. Use spray foam to reduce air leaks around utility cut-throughs for pipes (“plumbing penetrations”) under the sink. And make sure electrical outlets and wall plates on your outside walls are properly insulated.
- Reverse Your Ceiling Fan. Reverse your ceiling fan to turn clockwise, and run it on a low setting. This will pull hot air from the ceiling and push it down into the room. The low setting will keep air circulating without creating a cooling breeze.
- Install an Attic Tent. An attic tent insulates the attic access door from the rest of the house. This will ensure that warm air isn’t escaping into your attic.
- Use Space Heaters. A space heater can warm the room you’re in so you don’t have to heat the whole house. Make sure to shop for an energy efficient model, with an auto-off timing feature and a sensor that shuts the unit off if it tips over. These should never be left running unattended.
If you’ve tried these tips and are still concerned about how much electricity you are spending, contact your HVAC professional for an an inspection and tune-up. A replacement furnace costs around $3817, according to HVAC.com. That makes a seasonal tune-up a smart investment.
Your natural gas heating system uses gas as a heating source. However, in a central HVAC system, it also uses electricity for the blower that moves the hot air around your home. Implementing these energy efficiency tips can help save on both your gas and your electric bill.
Winter Heating Safety
With winter heating comes the need for winter heating safety. Be aware of these safety precautions around your home.
Carbon Monoxide Detector – With your home tightly sealed against drafts, you can run the risk of carbon monoxide build-up. Make sure to have a carbon monoxide detector in your home, in addition to fire and smoke detectors.
Space Heaters – Space heaters account for 4 out of 5 heating fire deaths, according to the National Fire Protection Association. If you have an older model, replace it with one that has an automatic shut-off. And keep any flammable materials outside a 3-foot radius of the heater. Lastly, never leave a child alone with a space heater.
Plastic Window Seal — When using plastic film window seal, don’t seal windows in the bedroom or other windows that may need to be opened quickly in the event of a fire.
Chimney Cleaning and Inspection – A chimney sweep (yes, like in Mary Poppins) can check the structure of your flue and chimney. They can also remove any combustibles, like creosote, a tar-like substance created when you burn wood. Your chimney should be inspected and cleaned annually, especially if you use your fireplace frequently.
With these tips, we hope you have a safe and warm winter heating season!