We just paid for our first delivery of 100 gallons of heating oil, to the tune of $379. It is a temporary expense, since we hope to convert our 26 year old oil furnace to a gas burning one some time in the near future. Natural gas is probably the cheapest heat source in the US currently with all the shale explorations happening in the Midwest right now. Paying a lump sum like that got me thinking of ways to stretch those 100 gallons of oil to their maximum heating potential. Listed below are the heat and energy saving tips you can use to learn how to save money on heating your home.
1. How to Save Money on Heating – Lower the Thermostat!
A programmable thermostat is probably one of the best investments you can make on your path to a lower heating bill this winter. We use ours to set the temperature at 68 degrees during the day, while dropping it by 10 degrees to 58 after we are warm and cozy under the covers at night. The theory is that a colder house loses heat slower than a warm house, thus saving energy and money. You can get a fairly basic programmable from Amazon for a little over $20, or you can pony up two and a half Benjamins for the state of the art Nest Thermostat which among other things, lets you use your smartphone to adjust your home’s temperature. The Nest happens to be Amazon’s #1 bestselling programmable thermostat right now.
2. Close Off Unused Rooms
We have just over 2,000 square feet of living space in our home. Obviously, we don’t use all of that space all of the time. So, we simply close the forced air heating vents in several rooms, and shut the doors. This reduces the amount of space being heated, saving a bundle on our heating bill. Just remember not to close too many vents if you have a forced air system as this will put unnecessary wear and tear on your blower unit.
3. Change Your Filters Regularly
This is again assuming you have a forced air heating system in your home. Changing your filter regularly reduces the amount of dust build up which blocks airflow and heat from getting to where it needs to go. We purchase our furnace filters in bulk from Amazon and change them every 3 months or so.
4. Cover Windows and Doors
Since about 30 percent of the total heat loss in your home passes through your windows and doors, it pays to know how to reduce that airflow. Thankfully, we bought a house with energy efficient double paned windows. Even with good windows, however, a good set of thermal curtains on each window can eliminate any drafts or radiant ‘heat leaks’ besides adding a cozy look to the room’s appearance. For your doors, just be sure they have good weather stripping that isn’t cracked or warped. A secondary storm door can help also, as it creates a cushion of air which has an insulating effect on the main door.
5. Stack Those Layers
Our home night time temperature varies by 20 degrees depending on whether it is January or July. In July, we set the AC at 78 and in January, our heat is set at 58. How do we cope with this range of temperatures? By layering our clothing and bed covers we can regulate what our bodies need in order to feel comfortable without spending a dime extra. During the winter months, I always have a sweater on and some type of footwear to keep my extremities warm. Some frugal fans go as far as wearing hats and gloves so they can drop the temps even further, but there’s no need to be that extreme.
6. Switch to Natural Gas or Geothermal Heat
With all the controversial ‘fracking’ activities producing a surplus of natural gas, combined with volatile oil prices due to the unrest in the Middle East, there has never been a better time to switch from oil to natural gas heat. Depending on which state you live in, electric heat may still make financial sense for you, but for most folks natural gas is the cheapest heating method available. If you have an existing oil furnace (like we do), you can get a conversion kit put on it for a very reasonable price. Long term we hope to make this switch, but for now that big oil tank in our basement is staying right where it is. If you have the big bucks to shell out (read $8-12k) you can install a high efficiency geothermal heat pump. To help you out and move the country towards less dependence on fossil fuels, the US government is willing to pay 30% of your monster sized geothermal system installation bill.
7. Heat Only the Space You Occupy
Most homes have a central heating system, but if you spend most of your day in only one room (an office for example), you can drop the temperature in the rest of the house and use a high efficiency electric space heater. Stay away from most of the small, noisy ceramic space heaters. They are cheaply made, break down quickly and can be a fire hazard as well. Here are two recommendations for quality space heaters that are easy to maintain and should give you years of trouble-free use:
- iLiving Infrared Portable Space Heater- This heater easily heats a700-1000 square foot area and blends in with your other furniture in the room. It has an electronic thermostat and even comes with a remote control!
- DeLonghi Oil-Filled Radiator TRD0715T - During my bachelor days, I spent some time living with a host family (long story). They provided me with one of these very quiet portable oil heaters for the winter months since my room was one of the draftiest in the house. It did the job efficiently and well, however this unit takes longer to heat up a room than heaters with electric blowers on them.
8. Reduce Your Living Space
Other than closing off sections of our house, we haven’t taken this advice very seriously. Our home has 9 foot ceilings which means we have an extra 4,000 cubic feet of space to heat than if we had 7 foot ceilings like the home I grew up in, north of the Canadian border.
9. Use a Personal Heating Device
A personal heating device is probably the most efficient way you can keep warm, since they usually work by direct contact with your skin. Inductive heating keeps you toasty, even if the air around you is chilly. One advantage to using these, besides cost savings is the fact that cooler air is easier to breath and isn’t as friendly to the viruses that cause colds and flu. Here are some suggestions for personal heating devices:
- Indus-Tool Cozy Electric Foot Warming Pad - As mentioned, the most efficient way to heat anything is through direct contact heating through induction. This foot warmer does just that, keeping your toes toasty warm and heating the rest of your body up as well. It uses only 90 Watts (roughly 1 penny per hour to run) and if it enables you to to drop the temperature in your house a few degrees while you work in your home office, it could provide significant cost savings!
- Hot Water Bottle - This ‘technology’ has been around for a long time, but it is still just as efficient. We’ve used a hot water bottle for a foot warmer, blanket heater, and for joint pain relief. Every household should invest in at least one of these.
10. Invite Lots of People Over!
My wife and I had almost 20 people stay at our home over the Thanksgiving holiday. With all those warm bodies in the house, I simply turned the heat of entirely. We didn’t need it! In fact, we had to crack open a few windows at times when we had the stove going to cook the turkey and ham for Thanksgiving dinner. A friend of mine who works in the HVAC industry told me once that each adult produces the same amount of heat as a 100 watt light bulb. Imagine having twenty 100 watt light bulbs lit up at the same time in your house. Of course, you have to feed all those people, so you won’t be technically saving any money, but your home will be toasty warm!
How do you plan to save on energy costs this winter? Sound off in the comments below.