How To Save On Heating Bills

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Winter is coming, and if that sounds like a fateful warning, the tone is no less ominous when applied to the battle consumers fight throughout the frigid season – how to control heating costs.

The U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) produced a winter fuels outlook for 2022-23, predicting sharp rises in natural gas and electricity costs. Nearly 90% of U.S. residential customers use natural gas or electricity to heat their homes.

The EIA estimated the average household expense to heat a home with gas rising 28% in 2023. Increases in natural gas and electricity aren’t only affected by power outages and extreme weather but by greater demand resulting from world affairs like the wars in Ukraine and Israel.

Spiking costs in home heating for many are compounded by other utility bills and can seriously impact a family on a tight budget at a time of year when people are putting extra dollars toward holiday travel and Christmas presents.

Saving energy in winter months isn’t as daunting as it might seem. Small steps can add up to substantial savings and those savings can be repeated year after year.

“Heating costs can be controlled (primarily) by preparing your home for winter,” Tanya Klien, owner of Anta Plumbing in Toronto, said. “This is an investment, but it will save you money in the long run.”

Steps you can take to save on your heating bills range from the obvious to some measures you might not have considered, or thought too incremental to make much of a difference:

1. Turn Down Your Thermostat

I live in Cleveland. In addition to a familiarity with NFL seasons that end in despair, we know about high heating bills. One way to combat them is to turn the thermostat down to 68 instead of letting it run at 72. Just that change can mean a 5% savings on home heating.

Try it. Then when night comes, especially if your bedrooms are upstairs where heat rises, turn it down to 64. Better yet, get a smart thermostat that allows you to control the temperature when you’re out of the house.

2. Turn Down Your Water Heater

Showers can be therapeutic without being so hot they remove skin. Lowering the temperature on a water heater reduces costs without a major difference in shower comfort.

“Also, insulate your water heater,” Christine Ciavardini of MD Energy Advisors, said. “By wrapping your water heater in insulation, you can save 10% on your electricity water heating costs.”

3. Maintain and Seal Doors and Windows

To identify drafts, you can do the candle experiment and hold the flame near windows and doors to see how much it flickers. Or, you likely already have a good idea where drafts are breaking and entering your house. Windows and doors are the biggest culprits but not the only ones.

“Ensure you insulate window frames if they allow too much air to seep in, and consider using thick curtains,” Mark Snell, owner of Polestar Plumbing, Heating & Air Conditioning in Kansas City, said. “Utilize draft-proofing strips to seal any gaps around door frames and install protective screens at the bottom of doors.”

Basic home maintenance is crucial all year round, inside and out, but is even more important in preparing your house for winter and saving money on heating bills.

“Your chimney is (also) a big escape hatch for heat when you aren’t using it,” Klien said. “Make sure the flue is shut when you aren’t building a fire.”

4. Close Unused Vents

If there are rooms in your house that go unused (for me, it’s the one with the treadmill and weight bench), close off heating vents when possible.

You don’t want those unused rooms to be so cold you can hang a side of beef in there, especially if the room contains pipes that can freeze. But keeping unused rooms cooler than the rest of the house can save you money at no inconvenience.

5. Turn On Your Ceiling Fan

Some people equate ceiling fans with sultry summer weather, but a fan set on low and running clockwise can force trapped (warmer) air down where it can do the most good.

6. Check Your Attic Insulation

Drafty attics are a home heating cost multiplier, which is not a big surprise since heat rises. The idea is to keep it from rising up and out of your house.

“You can add insulation to your attic, also the ceiling of your basement,” Docia Boylen, owner of The Handyman Connection in Colorado, said. “Both of these will help keep out the cold and keep your heating in.”

7. Turn Off Your Bathroom Fan

Not every heat-saving tip offers big savings. But the little ones – like turning off the bathroom fan to allow humid air from the steam to move to other areas of your home – can add up.

8. Use an Electric Blanket

It may seem counterintuitive to use electricity to reduce home heating costs but if you huddle under a low voltage electric blanket you can reap significant warmth without much cost, especially when compared to space heaters.

9. Wear More Layers of Clothing

Layering is a great way to deal with cold temperatures when you’re out for a morning run, a walk in the park or any other outdoor activity. The same goes for the Great Indoors in the winter.

“I always tell my family to wear warmer clothing indoors which allows for lower thermostat settings without getting too cold,” Tim David, CEO of Airlucent, said. “They have winter clothing for a reason, and this is a good time for them to use it.”

10. Close Off Unused Rooms

Double down on those unused rooms where you already closed vents by closing doors. You can use a towel, blanket, or an inexpensive door draft stopper to keep heat circulating where it belongs.

11. Let the Sun Heat Things Up

In some areas of the country where gray skies dominate in winter (did I mention I live in Cleveland?) the sun is a particularly welcome sight. Use it to your advantage by opening curtains and blinds to allow direct sunlight to heat up rooms.

“This is free energy,” David said.

12. Cook at Home

Eating in isn’t just a good way to save money to apply toward higher heating costs and help reduce household expenses. The heat from stovetops and ovens can help warm the kitchen and adjacent space.

This isn’t to suggest you leave the burners on unattended but you can open the oven door (after turning it off, naturally) and let the heat circulate.

13. Service Your Heating System

Getting your heating system regularly serviced offers the dual benefit of maximizing its efficiency in cold weather months while also improving the odds of identifying issues before they require expensive repairs. A yearly plan can also fix the cost of your next service months ahead of time.

“Even a clogged filter in your furnace can significantly increase your heating costs,” Snell said.

14. Ask Your Provider About Budget Billing

Find out if your utility provider offers budget billing. Budget billing can spread your heating costs over 12 months, and while you’re not directly saving money, you’re saving yourself a stressful cost spike in the winter months.

“In cases of financial hardship, suppliers may recommend a comprehensive review of your payment plan, inform you about available repayment options, and in some instances, provide the option of payment breaks or at the very least, grant you extra time to settle your debt,” Snell said.

More Money Saving Tips

In some cases, it might be worth checking eligibility for energy assistance. Just know it is income dependent. To see if you qualify, contact your state’s Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) or the Weatherization Assistance Program offered by the U.S. Department of Energy.

Whether or not you qualify for assistance, saving on household expenses can be a year-round practice that pays dividends when winter drives up the cost of heating your home.

» Learn More: How To Save Money on Air Conditioning

» Learn More: How To Get Help With Your Electric Bill

Fluctuating costs of utilities is only one stress that can unravel a family’s best laid financial plans. The most important step you can take is making a thorough inventory of your monthly expenses.

A nonprofit credit counselor can help you devise a budget that not only meets those demands but allows you to put money away for a rainy day, or a series of cold snowy ones.

» Learn More: How To Create A Successful Budget

About The Author

Robert Shaw

After a 45-year career in journalism, Robert's focus is helping consumers cope with personal finance issues. Finding solutions to paying off credit card debt, mortgage payments and that darn student loan, is far more fulfilling than explaining why the Cleveland Browns can't win (It's the quarterback!!). Robert wrote about the Browns and all Cleveland sports as a columnist at the Plain Dealer before transitioning to television sports commentary at WKYC. Now, his passion is helping people navigate their personal finances.


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  2. Durrani, A. (2023, March 9) Monthly Utility Costs In The U.S. By State. Retrieved from