Here in New England the fall is upon us, which means for the next couple of months heating bills will be through the roof. It’s also the time of year where I ask myself why I left California in the first place. From every October to March my usual $30.00 monthly gas bill rockets up to $250.00, and I’m lucky enough to have a gas furnace and not oil like many of my friends and neighbors. I have one friend who pays $300.00 a month all year round to heat his house with oil in the winter. That’s $3600.00 a year for heating their house for measly 4 months!
For those in rentals and apartments, the choice of heating system isn’t usually in your hands. You’re stuck with what’s there, and depending when it was installed or the age of the building you live in can effect the cost of heat dramatically. If you live in an place with older/non-maintained windows and doors you can practically see the money floating through those cracks whenever your heat turns on.
There are many things you can do before you turn the dial up on the thermometer in those cold winter months. Most of these you can do with little to no cost and effort.
Close off the rooms you don’t use: Do this by closing the doors when not using a room, or sealing off the rooms you may not use at all with blankets or shrinking film. Even closing the vents to unused rooms will cut 100-200 sq ft off your energy footprint.
Deal with those old windows and doors: Use a shrink kit on doors and windows, they cost about 5 dollars per window to seal up. You can also use blankets and heavy curtains over the windows to help stop drafts. Cheap clear shower curtains taped on the windows will let the sun in, and trap in the heat. If you really want to get crazy, use silicone or caulk to seal any small cracks around window and door frames. Sealing your windows and doors can save you as much as 6% on your heating costs.
Layers, Layers, Layers: My mom was constantly on me to wear hats, socks and sweaters inside during the winter months as a child, and I never believed her. Had I taken her advice (like I should have), I could have kept much warmer in our 100 year old house. Even though science has debunked the fact people lose 40-50% of their body heat through their heads, covering them up still help you keep a few degrees warmer. The one thing I always do in the winter is wear socks around the house.
Get a programmable thermostat: Energy.gov states that if you turn our heat down 10-15 degrees for at least 8 hours a day, you can save 5%-15% on your yearly heating bill.
Portable Heaters: Electric space heaters can be a double edged sword. If used correctly they can decrease the monthly heating bill, but if used incorrectly they can raise your heating costs by a lot! Lowering your thermostat to 62 degrees Fahrenheit and adding a space heater to one room can save you $200 a year. Use them when you only want to heat one room though, too many and your bills will skyrocket. Keep in mind that these portable electric heaters are high maintenance. Don’t put anything within 3 feet of it so you don’t burn down your place, and make sure to turn it off when not using it. The CPSC states that 21,800 residential fires are started a year due to space heaters.
While those of us old timers know how crazy heating bills can be, it can be quite the surprise for new renters or homeowners. Just to be safe try to have double or triple the normal bill put aside for that first heating bill, and anything left over will most certainly be used up the next month. You can also call your local energy provider and see if you can get on a fixed monthly plan to ease the pain during the freezing days of winter. Even though winter is expensive for those of us who have to deal with sub freezing temperatures, it doesn’t have to break the bank if done correctly.