Slash Your Heating Costs This Winter

Use these low and no-cost ways to lower your heating bill, regardless of your heat source. Read on if you’d like to save 20 or even 40% on your heating bills this winter.

How would you like to save 20 to 40% on your heating bills this winter? Sound good?

Measures can indeed be taken that can easily save you double digit percentages when those penetrating arctic winds start to blow. For those on limited budgets, there are many ways to lower heating bills that don’t cost a dime. There are also weatherization applications that require anywhere from a small to middling investment of cash, yet these applications will subsequently lower both energy consumption and future heating bills. Over time, these investments can be expected to more than pay for themselves.

Cost-free ways to lower heating bills

  • Lower your thermostat. Try reducing your usual daytime temperature by at least one degree. For each lowered degree, you’ll save one to three percent off those heating bills. At night, turn down the thermostat to 60 degrees: It’s much healthier, you’ll feel better when you awaken, and you’ll save money. If you go away for a weekend or more, lower thermostat to 55 degrees.
  • Run bathroom and kitchen exhaust fans less. Exhaust fans pull warm air out of the house and let in cooler air that will need to be heated. Use fans only when necessary.
  • If you have a service contract with a heating provider, it will usually include an annual check and tune-up of your heating system. Don’t rely on the company to contact you about scheduling this service. Be sure it is performed annually before winter arrives; doing so can save up to 10 % on heating bills.
  • Close the damper on your fireplace when not in use. If not, your chimney will draw warm air out of the room and create a draft.
  • Close off unused spaces (attic, garage, basement, spare bedrooms, storage areas) or heat only those rooms that you use. If your heating system has vents, close off heating vents in unused rooms.
  • If you have ceiling fans, reverse the switch so they blow upward toward the ceiling. The reverse air circulation promotes heating efficiency in the winter.
  • Reduce your hot water heater temperature to 115-120 degrees.
  • Keep blinds and drapes open on sun-exposed windows during the day. Close these same drapes at night to help impede the escape of heat.
  • Dust builds up on radiators and baseboard heating vents, and then reduces the amount of heat that can get into a room. Dust and vacuum these surfaces often.
  • Prune branches from trees and bushes that block the sun’s rays into your home.


  • If possible, sign up for a budget plan with your heating provider. Although this will not reduce the actual yearly dollar amount, it will make your bill-paying more manageable when spread evenly over a 12-month period.
  • When you add energy-efficient items to your home, check for possible tax breaks or discounts on homeowner insurance policies.
  • Check with local utility companies for free energy audits. Certain energy saving devices may also be provided and installed free of charge. Lower income households typically qualify for these free products and services.

Investments that lead to greater energy efficiency and savings

The following products and treatments require an investment in money but can be expected to more than pay for themselves over time; this from future reductions in consumption and costs.

  • Invest in a programmable thermostat that can be set to automatically turn down heat at designated times; i.e., at night, or when you’re not at home.
  • Caulking and weather-stripping are relatively inexpensive and can save 5 to 30% on heating bills. Check for drafts, cracks and gaps. Some areas where cool air can penetrate: window frames, around doors, wall or window-mounted air conditioners, attic hatches, baseboards, switch plates, electrical outlets, and foundations (For a great guide to locating air leaks, go to U.S. Department of Energy website, and click on “consumers,” then “energy audits,” and finally, “Do-It-Yourself Home Energy Audit.”). In general, you’ll want to weather-strip between moving parts, like doors and their frames; and caulk between nonmoving parts, like window frames and walls.
  • Be sure to have adequate insulation in walls, ceilings, attics and basements. Seal and insulate water pipes and warm air ducts in unheated spaced (For more information on insulation, go the same Department of Energy website, but click on “Insulation & Air Sealing” after you click on “consumers.”). 
  • Set your thermostat at a lower overall temperature, and use space heaters for one or a few frequently-used rooms. Heaters can start fires, so be sure to keep them at least three feet from combustible items and turn off before leaving a room or going to sleep. Supervise children and pets when using heaters.
  • In areas with colder climates, replace drafty single-pane windows, doors and skylights with products designed for these climates, such as thermal and storm windows and doors.
  • When it’s time to replace that old furnace, replace it with a fuel-efficient model. When selecting a new furnace, look for ones that have earned the Energy Star. These burners meet strict energy efficiency guidelines set by the EPA and U.S. Department of Energy, and use about 10% less energy than a standard burner.
  • If you do not have a service contract, pay to have your furnace inspected and tuned on an annual basis. The savings in heating costs far exceed the service cost.
  • Replace your furnace’s air filter according to manufacturer’s directions and your system will operate more efficiently; usually about once every one to three months.
  • A “draftstopper” effectively seals your fireplace from any heat loss, even more so than a closed damper. A draftstopper is an inflatable “pillow” that you insert into the flue, and its design allows for easy removal and reinsertion. A glass front or glass screen will also reduce fireplace heat loss.
  • Add a dryer vent seal to your clothes dryer vent opening, where heated air commonly pours out all winter long. Typical sheet metal flappers do not effectively seal against air leakage. A dryer vent seal stays closed unless the dryer is in use. 
  • Consider using an electric blanket in a cool bedroom; it’s much less expensive than heating your bedroom to a toasty temperature.
  • Install a low-flow shower head; it will use up to 50% less hot water.
  • Cover your water heater with an insulating jacket.

In a 2003 poem entitled “Old Man Winter” written by Nancy Hoback, she penned in part:

Furnaces running, water pipes
Freezing, and big gas bills, too.
How I wish winter was gone
And all the snow was through.

We can’t stop Old Man Winter from sending us frosty air and shivery snow this winter, but we can keep our furnaces efficiently running, our water pipes from freezing, and we can lower those big bills by 20 to even 40 percent. With a little time, investment and application of our cost-busting suggestions, both your home and your wallet will hopefully be a little more insulated and padded this winter.

To learn how to further reduce heating costs this winter, see Business Know-How’s article “Get the Best Price for Heating Oil This Winter.”

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