Taking the chill off is the first thought when you come inside from cold, blustery weather, and with good reason. However, as the winter months tick by on the calendar, the hum of the power or gas meter bodes a cheerful tune for the utility company. Sadly, your wallet doesn’t share in the joy of the song, as the tug of war between your budget and your bills plays out through the icy season. Worse, many of the improvements you might make in order to cut heating costs simply divert the expenses to other areas of your budget. You need some tactical assistance in trimming expenses, and the following are zero-cost helps, strategically and specifically aimed at lowering your heating bill.
Many will suggest 68 degrees Fahrenheit as a standard, emphasizing that you keep your thermostat there, no higher. However, unless you are experiencing severe extremes of cold, you may want to try turning the heater off, or setting the thermostat a bit lower. You don’t need to shock the entire household. Give them time to adapt. Try dropping the setting a degree each day, and aim for the low 60’s. It sounds a little bit odd, but combined with other strategies, is do-able. If your house warms during the day, then the heater being shut off allows you to decide when to resume heating, based on comfort levels and complaints within the household. If you run the heat just before bedtime, and shut it off when everyone is down for the night, then put it back on in the morning, you can avoid a significant amount of energy expenditure, as well. Every degree you can forego on the thermostat means less utility billing.
Part of the reason the above strategy is manageable is because you are going to counter the lower household temperatures by wearing layers of clothing while indoors. Long sleeved t-shirts, sweatshirts, and/or sweaters work together to hold the warmth in. Beanies keep heads warm. Thick socks keep toes toasty. All of the strategies you would use for going out in the cold are also workable for staying warm indoors. If you have these sorts of clothes in the house, then there is no need to spend money. Further, putting this strategy to work permits the previously mentioned strategies to succeed.
If you have small children, you need to pay attention to their reactions to the colder household temperatures. Don’t sacrifice their well-being for the sake of a few dollars, by any means. Likewise, when someone is dealing with illness, don’t compromise their health with heating issues. However, when everyone is healthy, most people are more hardy than they realize, and able to adjust to just a tinge less heat in the house.
The thermostat strategy will also work better in conjunction with a very warm approach to bedding. Use lots of blankets, and layer them on the beds. This is no cost if you already have blankets. Put a comforter or quilt over the top of everything. If someone is still feeling chilly in the night, try a couple more blankets. Wear layered nightclothes to bed, use those beanies and thick socks, and the level of heating needed for the night becomes less. If you live in extreme climates, you may not be able to leave the heater off, but you may be able to tolerate a couple of degrees less.
One of the daytime contributors to a chilly house is often the windows on shaded sides of the house. Only a foot or two away, you can feel the cold seep from them. Keep blinds or curtains shut, and if this doesn’t solve the issue, use a heavy blanket as a window covering, tacking it into place, or clipping. It may not completely eliminate the chill, but it will decrease it.
Baking is a common activity through the winter months. Make the most of the oven heat. First, be sure to incorporate more baking into your meal plans. Home baked breads, cakes, and cookies, are significantly less expensive than store bought. Further, if you do the baking in the early evening, or first thing in the morning, the heat generated can also warm the kitchen area. When you’ve finished, and the oven is turned off, open the oven door a bit, and take advantage of the remaining heat.
If you run a load of laundry later in the day, with plans to dry in a dryer, you can time the drying so that warm clothing comes out just before bedtime. You won’t get as much warmth from an open dryer as from the stove, but propping the door open after the load is done can allow the extra heat to warm the room in similar manner.
Concentrate household activity in just one general area. More bodies mean more warmth. Cuddle up with the kids in Snuggies or blankets, and watch movies together. Or play games together. Or just enjoy chatting and doing individual projects. Regardless, confinement of the majority of household energy to one area means not having to heat the other areas.
Adapt these strategies to your own family’s needs, and keep in mind the safety of those who may need that extra warmth through the season because of illness or frailty. You may be able to take the heating bill on, full force, or you may need to implement just one or two of these strategies, in order to begin to decrease your heating costs. If you can see your breath inside the house, you’ve probably gone to a huge extreme that isn’t sensible. However, many of these no cost strategies were born in a time when heating was not a part of the household structure, and when a block house in winter temperatures really did mean seeing one’s breath in the chill of the night, indoors.