Today’s Solutions: April 19, 2024

This winter, Americans are expected to pay the most for home heating in a decade. 

The National Energy Assistance Directors Association estimates that the average U.S. household will pay 17.2 percent more for heating costs—$177 more—than last year, which already saw record-breaking prices.

Price increases, especially for fracked gas, are caused by several factors. When electricity demand spiked due to record-breaking heat waves in 2022, utilities used fracked gas to cool homes. UK residents are expecting an 80 percent increase in energy bills this month due to the Russian invasion of Ukraine last year.

Try some of these ways to cut the heat and stay warm this winter to avoid a huge heating bill.

Shut Doors to Unused Rooms 

Simple! If the room has vents or radiators, closing the door will maintain the temperature and save energy. Close the vent to redirect heat to other rooms if you won’t be in there all day.

Rooms without heaters or vents benefit from closed doors. Thus, all heat pumped out will stay in your room.

Seal Up Leaks

The fact is: well-sealed houses are warmer. Sealing holes that let cold air in can lower heating bills by 20 percent, according to the U.S. Department of Energy.

Check walls, ceilings, windows, doors, and around light fixtures, outlets, and switches for holes. Close those gaps by replacing worn caulking and weather stripping. Close fireplace dampers properly.

Then, test out your handiwork. If a candle flame flickers when held to a window or door frame, air is still getting in.

Use Curtains to Your Advantage 

Windows lose 10 percent of the heat in the home, but curtains, shades, or other window covers can regulate indoor temperatures. Opening the shades during the day and closing them at night passively heats your home. Insulated cellular shades work best. Their honeycomb cross sections insulate against outside temperatures, reducing heating loss by 40% or more (and they have the added benefit of keeping cool air in during the summer when the air conditioning is on). Other blinds, curtains, and drapes work too.

Dial It Down

Do you really need the house at 72 degrees all day? Dropping the thermostat by 7-10 degrees for 8 hours could save 10 percent a year. When you’re at work, school, or away for a long weekend, turn it down. At night, snuggle under a warm blanket.

Programmable and smart thermostats will remember this for you. If you hate coming home to a cold house, program it to turn on before you get there.

This goes for the water heater too. Bring it down to the usual 140 degrees to 120, which is still plenty hot for a shower. To reduce heat loss, some homeowners insulate hot water heaters or pipes.

Layer Up 

Instead of turning up the heat, turn up the layers. Wear a sweater and warm socks! Keep blankets on couches, chairs, and your desk to avoid turning up the heat.

Turn On the Fans 

Sounds counterintuitive, but ceiling fans can actually warm a room if used properly. Instead of cooling, set the fan to move clockwise. When the fan rotates correctly, it will push heat down from the ceiling, where warm air rises. Some fans have a switch to change rotation; others require a manual. Keep the fan on low—you don’t want a breeze.

Keep Vent Fans Off 

Kitchen and bathroom vents remove heat, unlike ceiling fans. Use them when needed to remove smoke or odors, but otherwise, switch them off.

Use Space Heaters

Space heaters can heat the one room you’re occupying instead of the whole house. Use one in your office and lower the thermostat if you work from home.

Space heaters use 1,500 Watts of electricity, but the high cost of fracked gas and the savings from keeping the house cool likely make them cheaper.

Change Furnace Filters 

Change the filter in your forced air heating system (if you have one) regularly. With a clean filter, the system uses less fuel to pump heat. Some filters require monthly replacement, depending on the system.

Wrap Up Vent Ducts

Insulating ducts prevents heat loss into attics. Wrap ducts with foil-faced fiberglass insulation (check these instructions from This Old House for a step-by-step process). Leaks may require professional repair.

Cook or Bake 

Leave the pot of boiled water on the stove after cooking pasta or steaming dumplings to heat the kitchen while you eat. After baking, leave the oven door open to let the heat out—it’s already been generated, so might as well use it!  Besides, the yummy aroma of baked goods will also fill the room.

Set Up an Energy Audit 

Some utility companies offer energy audits at low or no cost. They can suggest energy-saving and efficiency-boosting strategies.

Make Some Upgrades 

You may decide to upgrade your home after an audit or personal evaluation. New energy-efficient heating or cooling equipment can cut energy use by 20 percent, and combining it with better insulation, home sealing, and thermostat settings can cut it by 50 percent, according to the Department of Energy.

In older homes, attics should have 10-14 inches of insulation (depending on the type) to prevent heat loss from the top. Energy-efficient furnaces cost more upfront, but they save money over time.

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