Tips for Saving Energy and Money on Heat


If you grew up with frugal parents who always tried saving energy and money on heat, then you’ve heard this one many times: “If you’re cold, put on a sweater!” It’s fine advice, but now that you’re the master of your own castle, you don’t need to wear a turtleneck just to watch a football game.

Sadly, being master also means paying the heating bill, and that monthly invoice can be quite a shock. According to the Energy Department, the average American family spends more than $1,300 a year on heating and cooling. If you have oil heat, it’s likely over $2,000 on just five months that make up the “heating” season. Start saving energy by using your heater just a little less, and over time you’ll have enough for a tropical vacation — where you can enjoy the heat with a margarita.

Read on for more energy saving tips to help you fund more vacations — or anything else you want to do with your significant energy bill savings.

Use insulated curtains. Many people use “thermal” curtains (made of high-density foam or heavy materials like velvet) to reduce noise or light for sleeping. Close them at night to reduce heat loss.

Plug your flue. Close your fireplace flue (and those glass doors) when you don’t have a fire burning. To further stop heat from fleeing up your chimney, buy an inflatable chimney balloon for about $50. It will auto-deflate if you forget to remove it before lighting up.

Reverse your ceiling fan. Spin those blades counterclockwise and you’ll bounce warm air off the ceiling, circulating air without creating a chilling breeze.

Don’t close vents. Eliminating heat flow to unused rooms seems smart, but it’s dumb. Closing heating vents can increase air pressure in your ducts, forcing leaks and possibly even damaging your heating system. If you want to seal off a room, call an HVAC professional.

Seal your electric outlets. Every outlet and switch inside an exterior wall is a tiny window, circa 1890. For a good Sunday project, remove all cover plates and then fill empty spaces around each metal box with caulk and expanding foam sealant. You can also buy pre-cut gaskets that go under the cover plates.

Drape off passage-ways. Hang drapes on both ends of long hallways, to prevent warm room air from filling those spaces.

Don’t run ventilation fans unnecessarily. It’s easy to flick on the ventilation fan in the kitchen or bathroom and forget about it. That pleasant whir means you’re heating your yard.

Be smart about space heaters. According to the Department of Energy, using an electric space heater will likely only save you money if you use a small one (say, 10,000 BTUs) to heat one room — and you lower your home thermostat enough to offset the cost of the extra electricity usage. To avoid dubious math, use this rule of thumb: Only use a space heater for comfort, not to save money.

Make a roast. Using your oven in the colder months offers a two-fer: you get home-cooked meals and radiant heat. Just remember to lower the thermostat when you’re doing the chef thing.