"Jennifer Hickey and Mike Louie have done something I never thought possible. Within 4 days, we have bought a house and then...more

How to Keep Your Heating Bill Low This Winter

Temperatures are steadily dropping as we push our way through fall and head into the winter season. Winter brings with it a lot of enjoyable activities from sledding, to skiing, to snowball fights and so on. However, one thing that comes along with it that isn’t quite as much fun is a high heating bill.

Boise Real Estate Pros Blog: How To Keep Your Heating Bill Low This Winter

According to the Department of Energy, heating and cooling costs account for 56 percent of the energy used in an average American home. Here are 16 tips to lower your heating bills this winter without sacrificing comfort:

  1. Replace worn weather stripping. Worn, torn, or missing weather stripping around doors and windows let’s cold air in and creates drafts. Black Hills Energy states that 12 percent of a home’s heat loss occurs around doors and windows. As a result, the home owner will turn the heat up and/or they lose warm air causing the heating system to work harder. According to Jeff Rogers, president of the Energy Audit Institute in Springfield, New Jersey, “Weather stripping around doors, and caulking around doors and windows, can cut down on drafts.” Most weather stripping should be replaced every two to three years due to wear. Weather stripping replacement is usually as simple as pulling off the old and tacking on the new.


  1. Adjust thresholds. If you see sunlight coming in under your door, then you need to adjust your threshold. As you can imagine, if that sunshine is peeking through, then cold air is easily sneaking in, and your warm air is leaking out. Most thresholds are equipped with four or five screws that let you adjust its height to eliminate a gap. To lift the threshold, turn the screws counterclockwise, until the daylight is mostly gone. You may see a small amount of light in the corners still, and that’s okay. You don’t want to raise the threshold so much that it interferes with the opening and closing of your door. You don’t want your door to drag on the threshold or it will wear the weather stripping out faster.


  1. Eliminate electrical box drafts. Insulation is often incorrectly placed around electrical boxes, making the ones on exterior walls particularly drafty. Try and stop air flowing in from around and through the box. Remove the cover plates and fill in small gaps with acrylic latex caulk. If you have large gaps, use a foam sealant to fill them in. After this, put a foam gasket (a two-pack usually costs just over a dollar) over the outlet or switch, then replace the cover plate. The gasket will continue to save you money for as long as you own the house. It’s a little investment that saves you a lot in the long run.


  1. Fill in/plug holes in exterior walls. Most electrical cables, gas lines, and pipes that come into your home have gaps around them that have been filled in with some kind of caulk.Eventually this caulk will peel, crack, and fall off. This will allow outside air in, and are often entry points for insects and mice. Use an expanding foam to fill the gaps. Also, make sure that you pull back the escutcheon ring on water pipes under your sink and caulk around the pipe. The ring does not block airflow.


  1. Use portable heaters. Use a space heater in the places your family gathers, such as the living room, so that you can turn down the furnace temperature. The rest of the house will be a little cooler, but you will be nice and warm. According to the utility company Pepco, every degree below 70 F that you turn down the furnace can save you an additional three percent on heating costs.


  1. Cover windows and sliding glass doors with plastic film. About 25 percent of heat loss in homes comes from the windows. You can reduce that loss by covering windows and sliding patio doors with plastic film. The film is fairly inexpensive and can be found home repair stores. It is easy to put on and won’t do any harm to your trim. If you put it on correctly you barely notice it, and it comes off easily when temperatures begin to rise again.  


  1. Utilize window coverings. For additional warmth, use tight-fitting, insulating drapes or shades on windows that feel drafty after weatherizing. gov has more details on the types of window treatments that help you to save energy and money.


  1. Use the sun. Even when it’s cold outside, the sun will still bring some warmth into your home. The extra warmth from the sun will reduce how often your furnace needs to run. Keep your curtains open during the day, especially on the south side of the house where you get more direct sunlight. Close the curtains at night to reduce drafts.


  1. Keep warm air from escaping out the chimney. Fireplaces are great for additional warmth, but they have a downside. When they aren’t in use warm indoor air escapes through the chimney. Even with the chimney flue closed, some warm air can still escape. One solution is to block the airflow with an inflatable chimney balloon. They can be found on amazon.com and come in various sizes. What’s neat about them is that if you forget to take it out before lighting a fire, the balloon deflates so the house won’t fill with smoke.


  1. Make sure the attic is adequately insulated and insulate the attic access door. In most attics, the access door is often not insulated properly, if at all. This allows warm air to escape through the attic hatch. You want the door to be properly insulated and form a good seal. Attach fiberglass batt insulation to the attic side of the door using an adhesive. If the door doesn’t lie flat, get a latch bolt system to close it tight.  


  1. Maintain your heating system. Schedule service for your heating system to find out what maintenance is required to keep your heating system operating efficiently.


  1. Replace your furnace filter once a month or as needed. Find out more about maintaining your furnace or boiler on Energy.gov.


  1. For Wood- and Pellet-Burning Heaters: Clean the flue vent regularly and clean the inside of the appliance with a wire brush periodically to ensure that your home is heated efficiently. Find other maintenance recommendations for wood- and pellet-burning appliances on Energy.gov.


  1. Upgrade your thermostat. The savings from programmable thermostats are well-documented. Popular Mechanic states that by automatically turning down the temperature by 10 to 15 degrees for eight hours a day, either when you’re not home or when you’re sleeping, these thermostats can cut your heating bill by 10 percent or more. Don’t believe the notion that the furnace has to work harder to warm up the house after the temperature is set low, which would negate your savings. It’s a myth.


  1. Keep heating registers clear. To provide even heating, the warm air blowing out of your registers needs a clear path. So, make sure you don’t place furniture over the register, leave it as unobstructed as possible. To cover it would be like leaving the vent completely closed.


  1. Reverse your ceiling fans. When you set your ceiling fan to a low speed and let it spin clockwise, to warm air trapped at the ceiling mixes with the cooler air and helps to heat the room.