The northern Midwest often faces some very rough winters, often including periods of many days with temperatures below zero Fahrenheit (-18 Celsius). Since I’m about to face my first winter as a homeowner, I spent some time contacting many of the homeowners I know in the area and asking for tips on reducing winter heating bills, and I collected eight of the best.
Use a programmable thermostat Your house doesn’t need to be as warm at night as it does during the day, so install a programmable thermostat and use it to drop that temperature during the time when you’re asleep and when you’re not at home.
Wear clothes in layers This is extremely effective. Just wear lots of layers of clothes. I often wear a tee shirt, a long underwear/insulation shirt, a long-sleeved tee shirt, and a sweatshirt, and just peel off layers or add them as needed, and you can re-wear the outer shirts a few times without washing them.
Keep lots of blankets around Just keep a few blankets in each living room and bedroom so that you can cover up with them. Generally, I only really get cold when I sit still, and thus blankets help with that.
Air seal your home If the temperature difference between the inside of your house and the outside is seventy degrees, even a small air leak can make a huge difference in the amount of time your furnace has to run. Sometime in the fall (or even early in the winter), air seal your home. Go around your house looking for places where you can feel a draft or feel cold air leaking into your home, locate the source, and seal it. Here’s a guide for getting started.
Install EnergyStar windows When you replace your windows, spend a little extra and buy energy efficient windows that minimize the loss of heat through the windows. This also helps during the summer, where the efficient windows slow down the heat from entering your home from outside.
Cook at home Seriously, firing up your oven and baking a casserole makes for a cheaper meal than eating out, plus that heat spills over and helps with the heating of your home. While it’s not hugely efficient, you’re basically just taking advantage of the synergy between your oven and your furnace to your benefit.
Place a “solar collector” in your windows that collect sunlight. If you have windows that receive significant sunlight in the winter, put a simple “solar energy collector” in them to draw some of the heat. Just get some aluminum foil, some cardboard for backing, some black paint, and a bit of duct tape. Paint a big sheet of aluminum foil black, tape the black foil to the cardboard, then put this in the window with the black side facing out, leaving an inch at the top and bottom for air flow, by taping it to the window frame. This can generate some impressive heat, actually, and can help quite a bit for keeping rooms warm in the winter.
Don’t close off unused rooms. If you try to close off unused rooms in your house to save on heating, you’ll often find that the “cool” room isn’t that much cooler than before and your bill probably won’t change at all (and may even go up). Why? Your home’s heating system was designed to heat your whole house, for starters, and you’re also trying to leave a cold room inside your exterior walls, meaning it will draw heat from other rooms and cause them to chill quicker.