We got the shock of our life the other day when the heating oil bill arrived. No, the price hadn’t skyrocketed to a point that we were feeling faint. Instead, we had a $600 credit because oil prices had dropped so much.
You see our oil company has a monthly payment plan that, last year, barely covered our oil bills. By the end of the heating season, we still owed $1,000. This year, though, it’s like opposite day with our already having money left over in our account, and in we’re in January only.
I guess this change shouldn’t surprise me since I filled up my car for $1.85 a gallon earlier this week. And just yesterday we got a new oil delivery. The price per gallon was $2.49. This time last year, it was more than double that.
Even though we’re paying less to keep our home warm this winter, I’m not giving up on our money-saving ways that continue to keep our energy bills low. You shouldn’t either.
With that in mind, here are 7 ways you can stay warm inside this winter and keep your heating bills on the cool side:
1. Turn down the heat. OK, so this is an obvious one, but how many of you actually do this? And what temperature do you turn it down to? Did you know that for every degree you lower (or raise in the summer) your thermostat, you save anywhere from five to 10 percent on your heating (or cooling) bills? You’re not gonna freeze in a home kept at 68 degrees.
2. Get thee a digital thermostat. In my old house we had one of those thermostats with the wand that you pushed from left to right or right to left to raise or lower the heat. When I nudged the heat close to 70 degrees, I could have actually pushed the heat to 72 degrees or I might not have even reach 70 degrees and then wondered why I was still chilly. I was guesstimating what I’d pushed the heat to because there were no real numbers telling me the degree. Therefore, I never had a true sense of how much energy I might be wasting from unnecessary heating. With a digital thermostat the numbers are right there in black and white–or silver and black as the case may be.
3. Make your digital thermostat a programmable one. Here’s what a programmable thermostat can do for you. You can program it so that when everyone leaves for work and school, the heat goes down to, say, 65 degrees. No one is home so why keep heating your house? Then, about 30 minutes before everyone comes home, you can program the thermostat to get your heat back up to 68 or 70 or whatever temperature you define as toasty. You can do similar programming for when you go to sleep at night. Again, if everyone is snuggly warm in their beds, why have the heat up?
4. Keep your heating system clean. If your boiler should be serviced every year, get it done so that you know that your system is running at 100%. If you have forced air and use filters, change them on the recommended schedule. In my old house the filters said they could last for three months, but I found that the airflow output decreased significantly after one month, because of all the gunk that the filter had trapped. Therefore, I changed our filters (usually the Filtrete kind from 3M) monthly.
5. Find ways to stay warm that don’t involve turning up the heat. Now, get your mind out of the gutter–this is a G-rated blog. No, what I’m talking about are things like dressing for the weather, which is just as important when you’re indoors as when you’re out. So today, for example, it’s in the single digits outside. I’m not walking around in a t-shirt and shorts. I’ve got on an undershirt, long-sleeved crew neck shirt and a cashmere sweater. I’m wearing corduroy pants, and socks and shoes–in the house. Additionally, I warmed up this morning with hot coffee, and I’m having hot cocoa now. Later, if I’m cold and want to watch TV, I’ll watch TV while walking on the treadmill. (We have wireless headphones so I don’t have to blast the volume.) Walking for an hour while watching “The Biggest Loser” or another show I have on Tivo keeps me warm and fit. And if after that I’m still cold, I’ll grab one of the dozen or so blankets I have folded up in the living room that we can throw around our shoulders when we’re sitting around and happen to feel chilly.
6. Want to lower your bills? Lower your hot water temperature. Turn the temperature on your hot water heater to 120 degrees, the temperature at which the Consumer Products Safety Commission says that most people won’t be scalded by the water–great if you’ve got little kids in the house who might turn on the hot water by themselves by accident. But it’s still hot enough for an enjoyable shower. Speaking of showers you can save on your hot water energy by taking shorter showers at cooler temperatures, and washing your laundry in cold water only. Ethan Ewing, president of free online consumer portal Bills.com says that most people can save up to 10 percent just from changing how they heat their water.
7. Insulate your home where necessary. If your hot water heater is situated in a cool area of the home and seems to be radiating heat, you may want to wrap it in insulation. This will prevent it from losing the temperature of the water and having to turn on and heat the water more–all of which uses more energy. Additionally, see if your attic could use some more insulation. According to Energy Star, a good rule of thumb is this: if you can see the floor joists in your attic, then you don’t have enough insulation. You’ll want to add another layer.
What are some of the other ways you’ve found you can keep warm without spending more on your heating bills?