Here in the midwest, it is cold. Very very cold. Colder than I remember it being in a very long time.
Maybe as I get older, I forget the past and it is only a slightly colder than average winter. But with temperatures in the low single digits (F) and wind chills dipping to the -20 degree F range, there is no arguing that it is cold. And as I shudder about what my natural gas bill might be next month, here are a few do’s and don’t about saving money on your heating bill this winter.
Do: Find drafts and stop them
Cold air leaking into your home through improperly sealed windows and doors can add significantly to your heating bill. Check your doors and windows for drafts (on a cold, windy day this can be done just by feeling along the edges) and seal them up in an appropriate manner. Permanent leaks outside the mechanism of the door or window can be caulked, within the structure itself weatherstripping may be the appropriate solution. Doorjambs can be blocked with a simple rolled up towel as a temporary solution.
Don’t: Try to heat your home with a standard “recreational” fireplace.
Fireplaces can be a source of warmth, but most of the standard ones put in houses in recent history are for looks, not comfort. A fireplace may provide temporary, supplemental heat, but don’t expect it to provide the majority of heat for your home unless it was specifically designed for that purpose.
Do: Use selective heating of used areas, if possible
Do you use one floor of the home during the day and not another? Are there rooms in your home that are not in general use? Close off unused rooms, including vents that supply heat to the space. If the area is used at night but not during the day, a short term closure may be useful. Our home is older and has trouble heating the top floors efficiently (our ductwork leaves lots to be desired), so we close off our upstairs during the day so that the furnace doesn’t work quite as hard (the temperature gauge is on the bottom floor).
Don’t: Leave space heaters unattended
Space heaters are a great way to add additional warmth to heavily used areas, but make sure they do not run unattended. They can quickly become a fire hazard. Turn them off if you are leaving the area for an extended period of time, and don’t run them overnight when you aren’t paying attention to them. In some cases, you should have a carbon monoxide detector in the same room with a space heater, depending on the method of heating.
Do: Layer Layer Layer
Winter is not the time to spend all day running about inside in your underwear. Enough said. Wear layers and keep toasty warm. Especially socks! (And yes, I have been known to layer socks!)
Don’t: Expect your house to be heated by your oven
Sure, take advantage of the heat supplied by your oven when you cook. I’ve been known to stand in front of the oven while baking on a cold winter day. But don’t expect the oven to significantly affect your heating bill.
Be mindful of the ways your heat is being conserved and may be escaping, and where you need your heat to go. It is hard to use energy frugally when the temperatures outside are so low, but it can be done. But be smart about it – frugal, not cheap. Don’t put your family or home at risk to save a few dollars.