*Content has been updated to reflect current tips and tricks - October 2020.
Sure, it's cold outside - frigid to be exact - but your wallet shouldn't have to feel that misery too. Give your budget a break with these low-cost/free tips, guaranteed to ease the cost of your heating bill this fall and winter.
1. Turn Down Your Thermostat
When you leave your house, whether it be for a few hours or a few days (spur-of-the-moment vacation, anyone?), lower your thermostat temperature three to five degrees. This simple trick can save you up to 10 percent on your heating bill. Knock even more money off your bill by lowering your thermostat when you go to sleep, too - that's around eight hours of savings - and we all know time is money!
2. Upgrade To A Programmable Thermostat
If you're slightly forgetful from time to time and won't remember to stop by the thermostat on your way out the door, consider upgrading to a programmable thermostat. Programmable thermostats, also called smart thermostats, allow you to program your thermostat to different temperature settings while you're away from home or sleeping. Many are wifi-compatible and come with their own app for use on your smartphone. When used correctly, programmable thermostats can save you 10-30% on your heating bill. Check out this list of the 10 best smart thermostats for 2020 to find a good match for you.
3. Bust Out The Fleece
Lowering your thermostat while you're home is another great way to save money, but it can't comfortably be done without a few extra layers to keep you warm and toasty. Stay cozy in cold weather fabrics like fleece, wool, and cotton (don't forget the fuzzy socks, too). Keep an extra blanket or two in the rooms you spend the most time in and bundle up - all in the name of saving money.
4. Lower Your Water Heater Temperature
It's no secret that we all enjoy the occasional long, hot shower (who doesn't?), but turning down your water heater temperature from around 140 degrees to 120 degrees could save you 6 to 10 percent on your heating bill. By simply shaving a few minutes off your daily shower routine, you can keep a few more dollars in your pocket. If you need a little extra motivation to shorten your beloved shower sessions, enlist the help of the ShowerTime app. Not only does it set a time for you to shut off your water, it also calculates the amount of water used and the cost of each shower for you (seeing is believing, folks).
5. Only Use Ventilation Fans When Necessary
The next time you take a hot shower or cook a meal in the kitchen, consider leaving the overhead exhaust fans off. Exhaust fans have one job - to pull rising hot air up to the ceiling and out of the house. So when you keep them turned off, you'll allow warm air to circulate throughout the room and rest of the house - acting as natural, temporary heater. However, if you see excess moisture in the room, you should turn your ventilation fans on for a few minutes, to prevent the potential for mold.
6. Utilize Your Curtains
Sure, curtains are good for blocking sunlight from getting in the room when you need some shut-eye, but they're also useful when it comes to insulating a room. If your home has less than stellar windows in terms of energy efficiency, keep thermal curtains covering them at night to block drafty cold air. When daylight hits, open up those curtains and let the sun warm your room for free. Check out this list of the best insulated/thermal curtains for inspiration.
7. Let Ceiling Fans Work To Your Advantage
If you have a home full of ceiling fans, consider yourself lucky. We all know ceiling fans are meant for cooling down a room, but did you know they're also good at warming them up? During cold weather months, turn your ceiling fans clockwise to trap heat inside a room. This will then allow them to strategically push warm air downward towards you (ah, feel the heat?).
8. Let A Humidifier Help
During the winter months, the air in your home can become very dry. Put some moisture in the air with the help of a humidifier. The moisture put out by the humidifier will help hold the heat in your home better, keeping you more comfortable when the thermostat is turned down. An added bonus? Humidifiers help aid itchy, dry winter skin, coughing/dry throat, and nose bleeds (to name a few). If you're not sure what kind of humidifier is best for you, take a look at the 7 best humidifiers to buy this year, rated by The Spruce.
9. Insulate Problem Areas
If your home isn't properly insulated in all the right areas, you may have to step in and add extra insulation where it's needed. Make a run to your local hardware store and pick up some inexpensive foam weather stripping to fill gaps in doors or windows. Check out this guide on weather-stripping while you're at it, to ensure everything gets installed properly and works to its full potential. You can also purchase extra insulation for problem spots in your attic or basement, but enlist the help of a pro if you notice the insulation to be damp or moldy, as these signs point to a possible roof leak.
10. Keep your Furnace Clean
Take some time each month to check up on your furnace. Every furnace has one filter per blower, so you'll need to inspect how many filters your furnace houses and make sure they're clean and unblocked. When furnace filters get too dirty, they can restrict heat from reaching its destination, making for a colder home. You can buy filters individually or in bulk depending on your budget.
11. Have The Pros Take A Look
Proper maintenance makes a huge difference in your home's heating efficiency. Have a pro come in to check your heater at least once a year, preferably before winter comes, to make sure everything is operating smoothly. Many heating/cooling businesses will come look for free, or for a very low price, and with tools like Angie's List, you should have no trouble tracking down a reputable serviceman in your area. Having these routine check-ups will cause you less surprises down the road, which means less headaches when you look at your heating bill.