A news publication reached out to me recently asking for a quote on how to save money on heating costs this winter… So I responded with the first tip that came to my mind → “Grab your partner, take off all your clothes, get under the covers and press your naked bodies against each other. It’s the cheapest and fastest way to warm up!”
They didn’t find it as funny as I did. :(
On a serious note, the pandemic has got a bunch of us working from home this winter. Instead of the cozy (and free!) heating that our work office buildings usually provide, we’re stuck warming ourselves at home and paying a larger than normal heating bill.
So here’s a few tips to save money on heating. While some of these are common knowledge, sometimes the best tips are sitting right under our noses :)
Also – like my air conditioning tips this summer, I’ve included some unconventional ways at the bottom. Just for fun :)
Tips to lower your heating cost:
- Wear more clothes! I know, it’s tough, because you’ve probably gotten used to having no pants on while on Zoom meetings (I have). But pants actually keep your legs warm, and they require no energy. Socks are a good idea too since our feet are most sensitive to the cold air. Clothing layers = free warmth.
- Check your windows & door seals. Did you know the White House has 132 rooms in it!? Rumor has it that Timothy Harleth, the White House Chief Usher, conducts a ruthless energy audit each winter. He personally inspects every single one of the 412 doors and 147 windows in the White House to make sure there is no air leak overlooked. Sealing cracks and weather stripping door frames lowers the White House energy bill by thousands of dollars.
- Service your air conditioner to make sure it’s running as efficiently as possible. Dirt, hair, or even your kid’s-long lost Paw Patrol figurines could be clogging the heating system and making it work harder to produce warm air. You can have a professional check out your AC unit, or, there are a bunch of DIY YouTube videos for quick maintenance ideas.
- Upgrade your thermostat. Sometimes spending a bit more upfront lets you save money over the long run. Any programmable thermostat will let you set times and temp ranges to make sure you’re not unnecessarily heating the house too much. Or, a fancy smart thermostat that can be controlled remotely, so if you pop out to Starbucks and accidentally leave the heater on, you can pull out your iPhone and turn down the heat sooner rather than latte. ☕️
- Clear the path for your vents to allow for good airflow. Sometimes furniture, low hanging curtains, or piles of dirty clothes can sit over floor heating vents or baseboard ducts. These plastic air deflectors could help direct air towards better places depending on your room set-up. Moving furniture around could also be a fun way to re-decorate your house or apartment!
- Stick a heat reflector behind your radiator. For those of you with radiator heaters, these units send heat in every direction. So if it’s sitting against a wall, you are technically warming up the wall. But if you install a foil reflector behind the radiator, it will bounce heat from the wall and push more warm air into the open room. Also, note: External facing walls have more heat loss than internal walls.
- Increase the humidity. Humid air traps and retains heat much better than dry air, so if you have a humidifier, fire that sucker up! Also, keep the door open when you shower so the steam leaks out of the bathroom into the rest of your house. Just warn your roommates before you leave the door open so they don’t accidentally catch you in your birthday suit!
- Curtain schedule: Curtains over windows should be opened during the day to let sunlight and warmth in from the sun. Right around sunset, closing the curtains will act like insulation and trap the hot air in the house. Thick or quilted curtains are best for large windows and sliding doors.
- Turn down your water heater: Actually, this tip should be used all year round, not just in the winter. The US Department of Energy recommends setting your water heater to about 120 degrees. Anything higher than that is usually overkill and you could be using excess electricity or natural gas.
- Reverse your ceiling fan! Most ceiling fans have a reverse setting – usually a tiny little switch on the side of the center unit. You might need a stool or to sit on someone’s shoulders to reach the switch. Reversing the fan direction pulls the cold air up through the center of the room and forces warm air down and all around.
And now, just for fun…. Here are some unconventional and out of the box ways to bring your heating and electric bill down. :)
Unconventional methods to save money on your heating bill
- Adopt 3 dogs to cuddle with. Ever heard the phrase “A Three Dog Night”? Well it’s an old Australian saying the aborigines came up with. Their method for keeping warm out in the bush was to dig a hole and cuddle up with a dingo to keep warm. On really cold nights they’d use 2 dingos. And on freezing nights, 3 dingos. Depending on the temperature, if you have 3 dogs you can allow 1, 2, or 3 in your bed for warmth.
- Throw more dinner parties… And ask everyone to bring a cast iron pot casserole! Not only will all your friend’s bodies warm up your house, you can use each cast iron pot like a space heater, strategically placing them around the house. Having fun while improving energy efficiency! (Only invite people within your “quaranteam” for health safety).
- Build a bonfire in your house? If you don’t have a fireplace, you can make your own with a metal trash can. If you’re worried about the smoke buildup, just drill some holes in your living room roof to let the smoke vent out. After you’re done with the fire, just plug up the holes with all the wine corks you saved from the dinner party from tip #2. I know you know this, but our lawyer says I need to remind you that this is TOTALLY A JOKE.
- Sleep at your neighbor’s house. Just tell your neighbor “I’m lonely” or “I’m scared of the dark” and ask if you can spend the night at their place a few times a month. If you do this 3 nights per month, that’s about 10% energy savings using their utilities instead of your own.
- Use space blankets. They look a bit dorky, but emergency solar blankets lock in about 90% of your body heat. The best news is they are only like 50 cents each when you buy them in bulk! Also, instead of throwing them away after use you can cut the foil into thin little strips for decorating your house or christmas tree for the holidays :)
- Sleep in the attic. We all know heat rises, so the roof crawl space is the warmest room in the house. If you live in an apartment building, try and switch apartments with someone that lives on the very top floor because their apartment is probably warmer than yours. Heat rises. It’s just science.
In all seriousness, how are you guys keeping a low heating bill this fall/winter? Any out of the box ways you want to share?
Happy Friday all!
PS – what are you dressing as for Halloween? I’m thinking about going as Bruce Bogtrotter this year. Even though our neighborhood has shut down trick-or-treating, I’ll just stay at home and have a big chocolate cake to myself.
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I loved these points – and what a funny intro to the newspaper :)
On a serious note, though, I was surprised to hear about the reverse setting on ceiling fans – and after I read that part, I actually stood up on a small stool to inspect my ceiling fans… Alas! I found that reverse switch! I was so excited to learn something new today! Thank you!
Stay awesome –
The Millennial Money Woman
I did the same thing! Haha. I flicked the switch and played around with the fan for about 10 minutes trying to feel the wind direction. I’ll definitely be using this trick during the winter!
I grew up in an old drafty row home. My dad was a stickler for keeping the heat set in the mid-to-upper 60s. Sweatshirts and blankets were frequent winter attire in the house.
When I moved to Detroit after college I learned a new trick; plastic sheeting over the windows to help keep the drafts out. My first apartment was in a beautiful old Art Deco hotel that was converted to apartments with very drafty windows. When my roommate from the U.P. mentioned putting plastic on the windows I was somewhat doubtful but it really helped.
That’s an awesome tip, Megan! I just found a bunch of youtube videos and plastic wrap kits online. Seems really easy and will save a ton of money. I guess the only sucky thing could be that you can’t see out of the window that well while the wrap it up. But, depending on the weather and your apartment direction, that might not be a big deal – it still lets the light in!
Cheers for sharing!
We bought a house in November 2010: a 1921 bungalow that had been flipped. To keep the renovation simple and cheap, they’d torn out the radiators and put in a heat pump with an electric resistance unit. And they neglected to do anything about insulating the place. Our first month’s energy bill was $532; we straight-up wilted when we saw it. I immediately drove to Home Depot and got their cheapest programmable thermostat… then drove right back when I forgot to turn off power and killed a 40A breaker trying to install the thing. Homeownership, man.
Whoa! Well I’m glad you were able to quickly solve the problem. DIY fixes aren’t fun at the time, but they are great lessons you’ll never forget!
I currently live in a 1920’s build house… and am proud to say I’ve only electrocuted myself 2 times in the last 8 years fiddling with circuit breakers :)
My cat is not at all impressed by a 3-dog night! This weekend I’ll be moving my warm sweatshirts and hoodies out of the storage bin so I can bundle up in the morning for my walks. I can still hear my mom’s voice: if you’re cold put on some more clothes. Funny, as I look back at it, my mom was REALLY smart!
The dog tip can probably work with cats too… But instead of 3 you might need like 7 cats to fill your bed. Actually, another bonus would be that because cats are more flexible, you can bend them and shape them to fit the contours of your body. Like a bunch of furry hot water bottles!
Time to layer up in the apartment! No shame in wearing a jacket around the house when the temperature drops instead of adjusting the thermostat. And here I thought Three Dog Night was just a great band!
Jeremiah was a bullfrog! I’ve had that song stuck in my head since writing this post! Haha.
Turning down the water heater really only works in the summer. Any heat lost in the water heater in the winter goes… into the house. Which will decrease your furnace use, by about as much as the water heater increased its use. As long as they are both natural gas fired, you should be about even.
I live in a small (<1000 SF) house. I keep the bath tub drain closed when I take a shower so the tub fills up with warm water. Once the water releases all its stored heat, that's when I drain it. You would be surprised how much this actually keeps the house feeling warm. To a lesser extent, the dish water from washing dishes, although there is substantially less heat to recover. Water stores incredible amounts of heat, and heating it takes a lot of energy. Instead of letting that energy that you already paid for literally go down the drain, use it!
I also only use the oven in the winter (or in the summer when it's cool enough at night to open the windows to let that heat out). In a small house like mine, the oven will absolutely warm the entire house, whether I want it to or not.
Having a wife on board with these eccentricities is crucial.
Hey Patrick! Great point on the gas usage with water heater. Maybe it depends on where the water heater sits? Mine is in a tiny laundry room on the far end of the kitchen. Then again, I live in California and have turned my heating on exactly 3 times in 10 years :)
That’s great about the water in the shower trick. Love it! Why wash “warmth” down the drain when you can keep it in your house!? Nice!