3 Ways To Keep The Heating Bill Down

When the temperature drops, the heating bills surge. But there are more ways to stay warm than figuratively setting your money on fire.

Making Sense of Cents offers these ways to save on heating costs:

* Shut your doors. Every time you open the door, you’re letting expensive hot air out. Keep your doors and windows closed, and close vents and doors of unused rooms.

* Bundle up. Neglect the urge to lounge around in your underwear by dressing as you would when venturing outside, and you’ll be able to thrive while using less heat. Adapting to the cooler temperature will save you over the long run.

* Lower the thermostat when you’re gone. If you’re going to be away for an extended period, lower the thermostat before you leave. To streamline things, invest in a programmable thermostat that keeps things cooler when you’re away during the workday.

How we’re saving money this winter with our heat [Making Sense Of Cents]


Edit Your Comment

  1. prezuiwf says:

    You forgot “Light a fire in a steel drum and huddle around it” and “Just freeze to death.”

    • FearTheCowboy says:

      What, you don’t think that your two ideas weren’t a bit obvious? I mean c’mon nobody’s gonna think that “Bundling up” or “shutting your door” could possibly work, right? And admittedly, “Lower your thermostat when you’re gone” may at first seem obvious, it’s really tricky sometimes to actually move that setting. [smirk!]

      • u1itn0w2day says:

        Bundling up is not easy for many since they don’t want to bundle up. They’re more worried about fashion statements. Many don’t like the physical process of having to put on a sweater or long johns. Or ‘don’t like the way it feels’. They actually feel entitled to a tropical enviorment in the middle of winter and freezing temperatures. Same applies for the tropics-I’ve seen fashion plates jump for joy when the temp dips into the 60s wearing gloves.

        For health reasons alone in winter especially a ‘warm’ temperature can be unhealthy drying out your sinuses/respiratory system. Freezing or cold temperatures can dehumidfy the air enough. Throw in drying effects of heat it’s even worse.

  2. Mr. Fix-It says: "Canadian Bacon is best bacon!" says:

    I don’t want to set the bill on fire… I just want to start a flame in your hearth…

  3. zantafio says:

    Or move to Florida

  4. RandomHookup says:

    My local utility has a program that gave me a programmable thermostat and installed it, too. They also have me a ton of CFLs for free.

    For most people, you should also turn down the heat when you go to bed. I enjoy a colder room when I sleep.

    • Fubish says: I don't know anything about it, but it seems to me... says:

      Wow. The only thing my local utility ever gave me was a hard time.

    • longfeltwant says:

      When I bought my house I replaced the old style thermostat (with a bubble of real mercury!) with a programmable thermostat. That was okay, but I still found myself turning it up and down all the time.

      So I was excited recently to find the new Nest thermostat (check it out: Nest.com) which is a *learning* programmable thermostat. It’s crazy expensive, perhaps more than it is worth to most people, but for me it is equal parts fun toy and useful appliance. But it is beautiful, fun to use, and has some boss features such as being able to turn my temp up and down from my Android pod, which is nice so I can turn up the heat before I come home, for instance.

      Anyway, I recommend the Nest to anyone who wants a very snazzy thermostat. They are sold out right now but for sure more will be available soon.

    • FatLynn says:

      Be sure you keep it at a decent temp when you are away for a few days, though. Frozen pipes will suck up all of your savings in a quick minutes.

    • u1itn0w2day says:

      I’ve seen people jack the thermostat up to 70 degrees plus or minus when going to bed with blankets. I can’t sleep in winter in those temperatures since I climatize my body to the enviorment. Not only is the temperature setting a poor choice since it’s cooler at night heat loss will increase and the heater will trip on more frequently.

    • psm321 says:

      I’ve never understood that. When I’m sleeping is when I need the temperature to be HIGHER otherwise I wake up shivering. Whereas I can make do when I’m awake and moving around

      • u1itn0w2day says:

        Wake up shivering???, They’re called blanketS, long johns and socks. And you wouldn’t have that problem if the room were on the cool side to begin with. All night breathing in dry air more friendly to bacteria & germs let alone that dry particulate matter will float better warmer and dryer air.

    • MonkeyMonk says:

      The problem with “turning down the thermostat” at night or when you leave is that many super high-efficieny heating systems (e.g., forced hot water boilers) work much better at maintaining a steady temperature than dealing with large temperature swings.

      We’ve got a Triangle Tube boiler (99.5% efficient) and our heatings bills halved when we stopped turning the heat down at night to 60 degrees. We now only go down to 66. It much more comfortable in the morning and it’s cheaper.

  5. u1itn0w2day says:

    People want or expect too much of artificial enviorments. In an air conditioning enviorment like Florida I see where many lower the thermostat so they need a sweater. I’ve been in homes up north where you have to strip down to a T shirt in the middle of winter.

    Setting peoples expectations aside about artificial enviorments along with insulation tactics ie insulating windows & doors I’d say cutting the down the drafts and leaks are the simplist and cheapest things you can do. You also can try insulating shades as well. And if it’s sunny for goodness sake open the blinds and shades.

    Adapting your body IS critical. I heard sayings like you should set the thermostat in the winter so you’re comfortable in a sweater and in summer so your comfortable in a t shirt. I’ve always found setting a thermostat closet to the outside temperature the best.

    • msbask says:

      I’m not sure I understand your last sentence.

      It’s 30 degrees in NY right now. What do you suggest setting the termostat to? 32 degrees?

      • u1itn0w2day says:

        Acclimating your body you need simply have to expose it to that enviorment. That doesn’t mean go out and get frost bite but first thing would be to learn the difference between sensing or feeling the cold as compared to actually being cold. Some people interpret dampness as cold. For some a cloudy day triggers an I’m cold response. Others crank the heat on rainy winter day. That being said do little things like put on your coat,hat and gloves outside-overdressing and/or cold weather clothes indoors doesn’t help. Same for hanging around the house or apartment-dress as lightly as possible, put on extra or cold weather clothing as needed. Incrementally one degree at a time lower the thermostat every couple of days. Learn the difference between the cold and actually being cold.

        Alot of people are like the military: they have their own uniform or fashion code. Unlike the military that will dress for the enviorment civilians don’t like to change. Its practicality over fashion sense or desires. Winter IS cold but no reason to panic. Some people have an outright fear or ignorance of the cold because they never had to work in it and/or were never educated on cold weather survival or what happens to the body when cold. That goes back to fitness and good circulation including seniors who even if capable don’t do squat. Many of those same principals apply indoor on smaller scale.

        It might require thinking a little differently but done slowy and steadily you can adapt.

    • firestar says:

      So what should I do when it’s negative 5 degrees Fahrenheit?

      • u1itn0w2day says:

        What thermostat setting are you using when it’s 5 degrees outside? Are you in the tropics at 70 plus degrees or are you sorta saving energy and money around 65 degrees?

        I’d simply incrementally lower your thermostat a degree a day until the mid 60s and take very short trips like fetch the paper and mail without a jacket. I’ve seen some dress up like Randy from the Christmas Story just for their 45 second trip to get the paper. They try to lead a John Travolta Bubble Boy existence-not really feasable or practical. Make sure your doors are unlocked before you walk outside but several short fresh air brakes without a coat might help as well. Trying to control your enviorment is fool hardy, the enviorment controls us that’s why we must adapt.

        • firestar says:

          I don’t really set it that high, but I’m not going to go below 60. Seriously, going outside for more than 45 seconds in negative five degree weather is just torture.

  6. bkdlays says:

    DON’T CLOSE YOUR VENTS! Honestly, everyone acts like this is a wonderful thing to do, but in reality it’s not. If the system was designed correctly then it has a rather delicate balance that must not be disturbed to ensure an even airflow throughout the house AND proper equipment operation. If you start closing off vents then you choke the airflow of the system and can do one of two things depending on which mode the equipment is operating in. In heating the restricted airflow can cause the furnace to operate at the upper limit of it’s designed temperature rise which can lead to several problems with the furnace itself..

    • u1itn0w2day says:

      Alot of people with hot air system not only close vents but they block/close the return air vents which is just as bad because return air vent help create a flow of air ie move the hot air around AND take in the cool air to be warmed. Absolutly don’t block or close vents. Always set/adjust for some air flow unless just you can’t stand it-I don’t like warm or cool air blowing on my body.

    • diannerose says:

      This!!! My HVAC service guy told me repeatedly not to close vents due to the fact that it would cause my system to backup and short out components.

    • captadam says:

      I was logging in just to write this.

    • captadam says:

      And I will add that I discovered what can happen when you don’t have enough air flow through a furnace: a cracked heat exchanger. Let too much heat build up and, over time, the expansion and rapid contraction of the metal in the heat exchanger will add up to metal fatigue. When that happens, the barrier between combustion and home air is broken, which can lead to carbon monoxide blowing through your ducts. And, if the furnace is otherwise operating correctly, it will simply shut down after this happens, leading to an expensive repair call. Oh, you say your heat exchanger is covered by a lifetime warranty? That just covers the piece itself, not the shipping of it or the installation. Expect that to run about $500.

      • nybiker says:

        I have an furnace and radiators (steam heat) so no vents, but my 6- or 7- year-old furnace developed a crack in it so my oil supply company with whom I have a yearly maintenance agreement comes and says that they will get the burner company (Burnham furnaces) to replace the unit at no cost (since it’s covered by a 10-year warranty), but here’s the kicker: it will cost $3,000 to install it and that’s my problem. WTF??!!! What good does it do to offer any sort of warranty but not have to pay to cover the installation costs when a unit fails during the warranty period? The cost of the replacement unit itself isn’t enough of an incentive to make good products, but if they had to eat $3,000 every time, well, then you’d be sure they’d make ’em better.

        Oh, one more thing: be sure you have a good credit report, since my oil company pulls a credit report check to see what’s going on with you if ask to be able to pay it off in 5 or 6 months time. And if your status isn’t so good (like my current one), then they won’t even let you do so.

        So, therefore, I add my experience to the collective pot of knowledge for all.

      • GreatWhiteNorth says:


    • TheMansfieldMauler says:

      Then why do they install closeable vents?

    • Such an Interesting Monster says:

      I believe this practice is ok provided you don’t over-do it. Back pressure only becomes an issue if you close off too many outlets.

      • TheMansfieldMauler says:

        Exactly. Your house’s heat/AC system wasn’t designed to exacting specifications, including a completely custom furnace unit that has no tolerance as to the amount of airflow. Furnace units come in a few sizes and are generally universal within a specified range. Any amount of airflow within that range is fine, which means you can shut off vents without fear of damage – just don’t shut them all off, but why would you?

  7. BrownLeopard says:

    Ceiling fans are a big help. In our area natural gas is more expensive than electric and a fan doesn’t use a lot of electricity as it is. Couple that with LED or CFL bulbs in the light kit and it’s quite economic!

  8. Cat says:
    • Mr. Fix-It says: "Canadian Bacon is best bacon!" says:

      What if I want to use that window, though? D:

      • Cat says:

        Read the post. You can still open the door / window, and light still comes in.

        If you want to watch it snow outside, well, that’s another matter.

    • Nigerian prince looking for business partner says:

      A lot of people in my neighborhood cover their windows with plastic sheeting but it has nothing to do with insulation.

      • u1itn0w2day says:

        The trick is to put the plastic on the window and not the window payne creating a sealed airspace which in theory is supposed to help insulate. This would be for older single payne window. The trick is to keep moisture out so do it at a low humidity time of day because when it gets cold the moisture will condense on the window payne.

  9. DrMcFacekick says:

    Heated blankets- great way to keep warm while watching TV or at the computer.

  10. Dr. Ned - This underwear is Sofa King Comfortable! says:

    * Cut open Tauntaun, climb inside.

  11. FreeMarketFan says:

    Do what the Irish-Catholics do to stay warm in the winter

  12. Nigerian prince looking for business partner says:

    I installed a programmable thermostat back in November (splurged and spent about $100 for one with a touchscreen). It paid for itself the first month that we put it in. Since it’s on a schedule, we’re less inclined to fiddle with it during the day and it drops down to about 55 at night and during the work day. With our old thermostat, we used to turn it down manually at night or when leaving for work but would forget about 50% of the time.

    I think the savings would be less profound for a newer house but living in a house with no insulation (just plaster-on-brick exterior walls), it’s a huge savings.

  13. crispyduck13 says:

    If you read the above 3 suggestions and phrases like “good idea” and “gosh why didn’t I think of that” pop into your head…you might be an idiot. Don’t worry it’s not serious, just don’t cross the street by yourself or write a blog, you’ll be fine.

    After getting my $360 electric bill in the mail last week I was hoping for some less fundamental ideas. I’ll keep looking.

    • tbax929 says:

      Mine was $20, but I live in Arizona.

      • crispyduck13 says:


      • Nigerian prince looking for business partner says:

        Even in months where we don’t run the furnace or AC, we still pay more than $20 for gas & electric. Just keeping the lights on, heating water, and running appliances seems to eat up more than that.

        • tbax929 says:

          I was referring to my heating bill. My heat is gas heat. My dryer and stove are also gas heat.

          Now my electric bill in summer months can get as high as $100. It would be more, but my house is in an energy-efficient community. In addition to the house not getting very warm, I get a discount on my electric rate. I have friends whose electric bills approach $300 in the summer.

    • pop top says:

      Do you live in an apartment building, and if so, do you know if the cost is split equally between tenants, regardless of use?

      • crispyduck13 says:

        I live in a 1700 sqft 1 story brick house. We have a solar hot water heater. All heat is from hardwired electric fan heaters that operate off programmable thermostats. There is a gigantic 10 foot long window in our living room (all windows are from the 60’s) and I think that might be the main culprit for heat loss. When the wind blows or it it’s under 30F for the daily high those heaters kick on every 10 minutes.

        We’ve replaced the seals on 2 out of the 3 exterior doors of the house, and that did help but short of insulating the hell out of the attic/basement I don’t know what else to do right now. Windows are going to be $10k for the main living area of the house.

    • Fast Eddie Eats Bagels says:

      I once lived in an apartment that had a electric furnace and man oh man did Jan and Feb suck balls. I had a $400 ComEd bill each month during those below zero cold spells. I moved that spring

      • Santas Little Helper says:

        I lived in this one apartment that cost me $90/month to heat. It seemed like the heather was always on. It was 900 square feet. I moved to a 3000 sqft house and my heat bill went down to $40. Apartments suck. I live in SLC, and it gets plenty cold here. Thank god natural gas is cheap here.

  14. u1itn0w2day says:

    Physical fitness is critical as well, especially cardio fitness since it’s imperative that blood flows easily. Your body sorta uses blood like hot radiator fluid to heat body parts via circulation. If your circulation is poor from things like high bp then you’ll have trouble keeping warm. Workout, stay in shape AND drink water even in winter.

    Another thing to keep in mind is to emphasize clothing that keeps the core of the body warm. If your internal organs are happy they will share the wealth ie blood supply with the extermities.

  15. RickN says:

    Whoa……when it’s cold outside and I want it to be ward inside, I should shut my windows? This is hard-hitting journalism at its finest.

    Should I turn the heater on too? How about not sit naked in the front porch? Put a blanket on the bed?

    Help me, Obi-wan….I’M SO COLD!!

    • RickN says:

      *warm inside

      I am not channeling my inner June Cleaver. Really.

    • u1itn0w2day says:

      There are people that would rather crank the heat and open a window if too hot. Seriously some don’t think twice about utility bills or the waste. Some people I know who practice this have gone into bankruptcy, they’ll never blame the utility bills.

      It all come backs to a sense of entitlement to be toasty tropical warm in a freezing winter enviorment. People have to learn to be happy simply not to be freezing or cold. They also have to learn the difference between sensing cooler temperatures and actually being cold. It comes back to the instant gratification society along with with a false sense that they can control everything including temperature without consequence.

      • crispyduck13 says:

        Hmm, while that’s an interesting cultural analysis I’m going to stick to my theory that it all comes back to utter stupidity. Carry on.

        • RickN says:

          That’s my take too. People who don’t care about the heating bill aren’t going to be reading articles about how to reduce the heating bill.

          People who do care and do read the articles should not have to be told to ‘close the damn window, ya moron’.

        • sponica says:

          Now that those apartment days are over I’ve yet to figure out how to set my thermostat in my room to a happy medium where I’m warm but not stifling…my room’s the only room in my mom’s condo that’s allowed to have the heat turned on because I have the 3rd floor finished loft that doesn’t get heated by the pellet stove

          if it’s possible to get a non-furnace based or non baseboard heating system, I think that would cut down most people’s heating bills…the pellet stove is 4 bucks for a bag of pellets and the cost to run a fan. granted it is an expensive outlay of cash at the beginning

          even the wood stove we had when I was a kid heated most of the house fairly well…

      • sponica says:

        when I was a renter I never paid for heat or hot water….and the building would routinely be close to 80 degrees, so I definitely cracked windows open during the winter.

        it always sucked when I visited people who paid for heat because I was always cold in their house, and the hot water was never hot enough…

    • PlumeNoir - Thank you? No problem! says:

      This may sound silly to most, but I have lived with this and have seen it first-hand.

      Mrs. Plume would suddenly get hot and open the front door in the middle of winter and open the screen door to get some of the stuffy, stale air out. And would forget about it. Or, at our last place, she’d trun on the central air…without checking if the windows had been shut from the night before. Or, my favorite: I’d wake up sweating in the middle of the night and check the thermostat – it’d be set to 80 degrees! She was getting chilly watching TV in the living room and would fall asleep.

    • Powerlurker says:

      I was helping my girlfriend move once and was wondering why the AC was continuously running but the room was still hot. It turned out that her roommate would regularly open the windows in her bedroom to let in fresh air while the AC was running. We had to explain to her why that shouldn’t be done.

  16. Rebecca K-S says:

    From the article:

    We keep the temperature at 73 degrees. I’m not sure if this is low or high, but it seems to be perfect for us

    It’s high, dumbass. Seriously? 62¬∫ is a splurge in this house.

    • longfeltwant says:

      /eyes roll

      72 is human standard indoor heat. Yes, some paupers set it at 62, but the rest of us don’t. My household sleeps at 60.

      • McRib wants to know if you've been saved by the Holy Clown says:

        Us northern people start to sweat at 72. I’m totally comfortable at 62 in a t-shirt.
        We sleep at 50 F at night.

        • kosmo @ The Soap Boxers says:

          I’m from north of the Mason Dixon, and I can handle temps of 90+ degrees much better than the colder temps (and I don’t sweat much until it hits about 85).

          I did have heat exhaustion one time while baling hay (old style, with the small bales), but I think it was around 105 with high humidity that day – so a but of an extreme example. Other than that, I never had much of a problem with heat.

        • majortom1981 says:

          How do your pipes not freeze?

      • u1itn0w2day says:

        72 degrees is standard indoor human heat when wearing a t shirt at rest???

        • crispyduck13 says:

          Yes, unless you were born in a state below Virginia.

          • u1itn0w2day says:

            My thing there are too many variables like physical fitness and house conditons to put a precise number on ideal indoor temperature. The focus should be on keeping the body at 98.6 degrees and stop structure damage to house, not lets pretend I’m on a tropical vaction.

            And in a house heated by hot air and not radiators heat can over dryout a house in more ways than one. Most wood especially things like stairs and floors can dryout. Dry wood shrinks, now you have movement in the wood and then creeks and squeeks from drying wood. Same for many paints, papers and plaster.

            I’ve lived in extreme hot and cold and 72 degrees is simply too hot for me especially in a winter enviorment because that’s just one more thing to mess with my sinuses. If you can wear clothing especially around chest to keep your internal organs warm being cold shouldn’t be the issue that it is.

      • Rebecca K-S says:

        Oh? Never heard any temperature but 68¬∫F referred to as “room temperature.” Regardless, heating your home to 73¬∫F in the winter is absurd unless there’s a health issue. If I would be comfortable sitting around in a t-shirt in your house in the winter, it’s too damn high.

        Anyway, don’t act like saving money on my heating bill and using less energy is some sort of character flaw, moneybags.

        • kosmo @ The Soap Boxers says:

          I’ve generally heard 68-72 referred to as room temperature. I like it 72+, my wife likes it at 68, so most of the time it’s at 69 or 70.

          61 or 62 would definitely not fly. I’d do a lot of other things to save money before I reduced personal comfort that much. I had enough cold weather growing up on a farm. I went to college so that I could afford heat :) (OK, there may have been other reasons, too).

          • Rebecca K-S says:

            I suppose if it actually did reduce our personal comfort that much, it would be a different matter, but it doesn’t. I don’t deal with cold temperatures well at all, but 62¬∫F with a sweater just doesn’t qualify as “cold” in my book. As I said, though, it’s not just about saving money – it’s about conserving energy as well.

            • kosmo @ The Soap Boxers says:

              If I had to deal with 61-62 all the time, I’d be grumpy a lot :)

              I understand the energy savings angle, too. However, for me, this is the one area where I’ll splurge financially and in terms of energy usage, because it’s important to me. I’ll cut back financially and in terms of energy usage in a hundred different area before I turn the thermostat down to 62.

              Also, our house is pretty energy efficient (actually, VERY efficient, in comparison to the energy bills other people talk about), so we don’t use a ton of energy even on the coldest days.

        • u1itn0w2day says:

          Exactly it all goes back to a unwiley sense of entitlement. Even an unfit older person without a severe medical condition doesn’t need 73 degrees.

          It’s not even a matter of money but just the shear waste of heating a house to the 70s in the freezing winter. I’m also disappointed at the lack of health concerns of over heating a house. Most respiratory infections/problems in winter anyway come from dried out sinus linings which crack open and are susceptable to germs/infection. Low humidity from the cold AND heat play havoc on the body. This includes normal hydration and has effects on things like skin as well

      • captadam says:

        I keep my place at 67 … sometimes, depending on how the furnace is cycling, the temperature sneaks up to 68. I can always tell beforehand because my cheeks and ears begin to feel flush.

    • dolemite says:

      We keep ours around 61-62 when no one is home, then 65 when people are home. Honestly, I think it feels ok, but the wife is a bit cold. But…just put on sweat pants and socks and it’s fine. We also use those oil-filled radiators to raise the temp in certain rooms about 5-10 degrees.

      • Rebecca K-S says:

        62¬∫F is our usual daytime temperature (as of this year.. used to be 60), and I’m certainly well covered, being fully dressed + a fleece robe, but I’m perfectly comfortable in it. Now, back when I kept my condo at 55¬∫F, those were rough days…

      • Dr. Ned - This underwear is Sofa King Comfortable! says:

        I just wear wigwam wool socks around the house…. they seriously make any temperature feel fine.

    • crispyduck13 says:

      Agreed. Since I’m a wuss we tend to splurge and hike it up to 64.

    • tbax929 says:

      Actually 72 is pretty standard. Mine hardly ever runs but it’s set at 72. Of course, I’ve been in AZ for almost a decade now, and my body has definitely acclimated to the weather. When I first moved here (from PA) I think I left mine set to 68-70. Now that’s just too cold for me.

      • Rebecca K-S says:

        Well, we have seasons here, so it’s not really an issue of long term acclimating. The A/C is at 78¬∫ in the summer.

      • Jevia says:

        It is amazing how one’s perception of warmth/cold depends on where one lives. I used to live in SoCal, and felt cold below 73 degrees, required a jacket until 65 and a coat below that.

        Lived in PA 12 years now and I still wear a jacket when its down in the 40s and no jacket when its in the high 50s. I don’t get out the coat until its down in the 30s.

        We keep our home thermostat at 69-70, night at 65 and away from home at 60.

    • lovemypets00 - You'll need to forgive me, my social filter has cracked. says:

      I wish! 66 is as high as I can go, and it’s 58 at night. I wish I had more money. I’m tired of freezing.

    • u1itn0w2day says:

      98.6 should be the number used for ideal temperature. Body temperature and not room temperature is the priority.

      This is why things like dress and fitness are critical and not worrying about “room temperature”. The whole point of ac or heat to help keep the body at or as close to 98.6 as possible.

    • baquwards says:

      Our furnace quit in the beginning of December, we live in NC in a townhouse. I’m tired of my feet being cold, we are using space heaters when we are home, but when I come home to a house that is 60 degrees (being in a townhouse has advantages) before turning the heater on, and having to have cold feet is getting on my nerves. 70-72 is the norm here when the furnace is working. 72-74 in the summer with the a/c

      Wednesday we are having a whole new system installed, I am looking forward to warm feet and warm floors.

      I like to keep the a/c

    • frankrizzo:You're locked up in here with me. says:

      I’m in northwest Indiana. I wear shorts year-round. I get strange looks when the wind chill is brutal, but hey, I’m only outside to walk in to where I’m going. My house would be in the low fifties if I were by myself.

  17. cara says:

    I keep my heat at the bear minimum that I can have it at, without risking the pipes freezing… my bill is still at $125, something I can barely afford on a college student’s part time job. And I already follow this advice… I just live in MA.

    If I could have some better suggestions, I’d appreciate it.

    • crispyduck13 says:

      Any advise would depend on what type of heat you have and what style dwelling you’re in. Are you living in a multi-unit apartment building? A one-up one-down house? Single family home?

      • cara says:

        I’m living in a large house that has been split into 4 units… I live on the bottom floor in a two bedroom apartment, just me and my cat. Building is pre-1970’s and has a dirt floor basement. We get natural gas heat.

        I wish I had a small house to myself at this point… I live next door to frat boys who party all the time… and were playing COD at 5am this morning.

        • Chronopoulos says:

          Fellow MA resident here, and I’m in a similar living situation. 1960’s 2-family. I’ve got the first floor.

          If you have National Grid, look into their balanced billing program. My gas bill (for heat, hot water, & stove) was about $30 in the summer, and shot up to $80 when it started to get cold. Now, I pay about $50 every month spread throughout the whole year. You’ll pay a little more in the summer, but it’s certainly worth the savings this time of year.

          NStar may have a similar program depending on where you live.

          • RandomHookup says:

            For Mass., that’s a brand new house!

            NStar has several programs and the cities and towns may also have programs in place (I know Cambridge & Somerville do). The problem has always been the landlord/tenant divide — landlords don’t usually pay for utilities, so it’s not something they care to invest in. Tenants can’t do any work without landlord’s okay. Heck, if it’s a valuable enough fix, just offer to fix it without reimbursement (and lots of fixes are just caulk and weatherstripping).

            • RandomHookup says:

              I was talking about weatherization programs, but NStar has a bill leveling program as well. I’ve been using it for years and it helps spread out the occasional spike in cost because of a cold snap (or they didn’t bother to do a true read of the meter for a few months…just estimated).

              • Chronopoulos says:

                Hm, National Grid gets an exact read from me every month. One one hand, I know I’m not getting overcharged from an estimate, but I also don’t get any breaks in my favor. :P

          • cara says:

            I’ve been thinking about enrolling in that program, I just do enjoy my low bills in the summer lol. And with how this winter has been unusually warmer than normal, I just haven’t enrolled yet. I’m also planning on moving after this, since I’ve been finding places for cheaper w/ all utilities included.
            But until then, I will be using these suggestions to try and keep the bills down. MY only problem about the ducts is that we have four separate places being heated, so I’ll have to figure out what pipes are to my apartment.

        • crispyduck13 says:

          I dealt with a situation like that after college, but the house was built in the 40’s, I was also on the first floor. First thing I did was call my landlord and just make sure he was aware that my winter heating bills were outrageously high. I asked him if he had any suggestions and whether he would reimburse me for any improvements I did myself (with his approval of course).

          If you have old windows and doors like I did go to your local home improvement store and buy some of that foam strip insulator stuff. It’s sticky on one side, use it to line the joints where the moving parts hit the stationary parts. Do the candle trick if you’re not sure that’s the problem: go around with a lit candle and hold it in front of your door and windows. If the flame flickers or moves, you’ve got a drafty window/door.

          The other thing to approach the landlord about is the condition of the furnace/ducting. Maybe the ducting is older or was installed improperly. In my last rental we discovered huge leaks in the basement ducting because the idiot who installed it didn’t use duct tape. I don’t know if you can insulate ducting but if your apartment is on the opposite end of the house than the furnace this might be worth considering as well.

          Hope this is helpful.

          • GreatWhiteNorth says:

            I am sure you know this, but Duct Tape and the tape used on heating/cooling ducting are not the same. The cloth Duct Tape is not suitable for this job. The metal foil duct sealing tape is the correct material to seal ducts.

          • u1itn0w2day says:

            Excellent suggestion checking duct work in the basement. I’ve found leaks at the seems which I taped up(correct way foil tape but duct will do for a while anyway). I’ve also put make shift insulation on top of ducts to slow down heat loss(can’t wrap entire duct without dropping them down). Check any joints or connection points in the duct work.

        • Not Given says:

          Some utilities will do a home energy audit, they may have some suggestions and at least you would see where most of it’s going. I’m not sure if your heat is forced air and you have one T-stat to set or if you have space heaters in individual rooms. If it’s individual heaters you can keep some rooms cooler when you aren’t using them. If it is forced air, make sure nothing is blocking your vents.
          Besides caulk and weather stripping windows, doors, outlet covers on outside walls…
          Put extra rugs down. If you have tall furniture like bookcases or wardrobes try moving them to outside walls. Hang quilts in a decorative manner on outside walls. If you don’t mind shutting out some light see if you can get duct board and cut pieces to cover some of your windows, if not there are insulating window blinds and drapes. Take a thermometer around your rooms and find the warmest spots and the coolest. Arrange furniture so that the places you spend the most time are the warmest, like putting your bed or sofa against an inside wall and not sitting next to a window or outside door.

    • RandomHookup says:

      Does the bear minimum keep the bears in or out?

      • cara says:

        HAHA sometimes they try to sneak in, but my enormous cat scares them away.
        (my original comment was before my cup of coffee, whoops.)

    • PortlandBeavers says:

      There’s a difference between polar bear minimum and regular bear minimum.

  18. Admiral_John says:

    Thermostat settings confuse me… if I set my thermostat to 65 when I’m home, is it more efficient to set it down to, say, 55 when I’m not there and let the furnace heat the house back up, or is there a smaller range of temps I should be setting it to that are more efficient?

    • Cat says:

      Unless you’re gone for only a short time, setting it back is always thrifty.

      If I go on vacation in the winter, the thermostat gets set to the lowest temp – 45, I think – and the water heater left on its lowest temp, too. I all I need to do is keep the pipes from freezing.

      It only takes a half hour to bring the house up to temp, and an hour to bring the water back up.

      • StarKillerX says:

        Don’t forget that the type of furnance makes a big difference as well.

        For example we have baseboard heaters that use hot water and it can take a few hours for the temp in our house to drop 10 degrees, but it also takes a long time to heat back up.

      • orion70 says:

        For a while when I would go away, I would also switch off the oil-fired boiler to keep it from cutting in constantly. Just left the taps dripping. I don’t do it now because I had water damage from pipes freezing (unrelated to the boiler switch, the furnace itself crapped out in the middle of winter).

    • longfeltwant says:

      Although it’s not exactly precisely this simple, the basic laws of thermodynamics would indicate that it is always cheaper to turn down your heat, in every case. But, sometimes cheaper isn’t what you want, and what you really want is a warm house when you arrive home.

    • beachmouse says:

      There’s a certain amount of ‘it depends’ based on what kind of heating source you use. If you’re on a heat pump, you may be better off keeping a steady temperature because of the heat pump’s tendency to revert to the emergency heat function (ie. very $$$ to run electrical heating strips) if you suddenly ask it to increase the heat by ten degrees.

      There’s one of these kinds of articles at least once a year, and every time I feel obliged to remind heat pump users that if they do set it colder when they’re out of the house, they really should use a thermostat designed specifically for heat pumps that has a computer chip designed to increase temperatures in the home without cycling the emergency heat function on.

      • Not Given says:

        That’s what my husband keeps trying to explain to people that complain about their electric bill being too high. With a heat pump, keeping a steady temperature is going to be cheaper than turning it way down and then up again because of the back up heaters. They shouldn’t come on at all most of the time which is why they are called back up heaters. People turning the temp way down and then up again kicks in the back up heaters every time and those things are really costly to run.

  19. Toffeemama is looking for a few good Otters says:

    In other words, do what everyone’s dad has always been telling you.

    “Shut the door; we’re not trying to heat the neighborhood!”

  20. crispyduck13 says:

    That is an excellent bonus. Pro-tip: Instead of paying $8 to get into the freezing cold movie theator, just show up 30 minutes before the latest PG13 weepy movie matinee, get yourself a front row parking spot by the ticket counters, break out your snacks and enjoy the hilarity. It would be equally entertaining to show up just as the movie lets out.

    The downside: driving in Florida.

    • crispyduck13 says:

      The hell?? I wrote this as a reply to another comment, guess that’s not working for me today.

      • George4478 says:

        That happened to me twice last week — replies became top level posts instead. The first time I thought it was me doing something wrong, the second time…

  21. Sarek says:

    My thermostat is almost always at 62 day and night. I’m usually ok with that, though I do move it up 1-2¬∞ if it’s bitter cold & windy out (that seems to find its way inside.) But I live alone; I have to crank it up more if I have visitors. When I worked, I lowered it to 52¬∞ when I left the house (~11 hours absent). But I think the jury is still out on whether that actually saves or not.

    It was much warmer in bed when I had the heated water bed! But alas no more.

  22. SmokeyBacon says:

    Well, the temp the folks who wrote this use seems really high to me (we keep it at 69 most of the time, 65 at night). I have heard that if you set it so it is too far apart (so say 55 at night but 70 when you are waking up) that it can increase bills because the heater has to work so hard to heat up to the correct new temperature – has anyone else heard of this?

    The problem at our house is that the upstairs gets warm and the downstairs stays cold. The thermostat is downstairs (but in a spot it gets warmer since it isn’t that far from the heater) so the upstairs seems too hot even with the temp set at 69. We use fans to try to get the air to move down and circulate but our house (and all the others like it in our neighborhood from what I understand) isn’t really well designed for circulation.

    • u1itn0w2day says:

      I’ve heard that two perhaps lowering the upper temp and raising the low temp might make the transition easier. Also I’ve noticed in 2 floor homes sometimes closing the doors at least 90%(cracked so air can circulate) helps stop all the warm air from flying upstairs. I

      Also make sure the return air vents are exposed. Make sure the sunny side of the lower floor gets sun in the day.

      • SmokeyBacon says:

        Ha – sunny side. That is a good one. We have a north/south exposure (townhose with units to the east and west of us) and the neighbors tree blocks most of the south side.

        There are doors we keep mostly closed but those are the rooms that get the warmest and the vents are only blocked when there is a cat sitting on it to warm up (they love them). I think the other issue at our place is that the downstairs vents are on the ceiling (not that it is high – 8 feet but still) and since warm air rises…. That is why we use fans to try to get it to at least circulate down – but boy it is just such a big difference in temps upstairs to downstairs (same in summer – upstairs gets hot when the downstairs is nice and cool).

        Oddly the warmest room in our house is the upstairs bathroom – and it has no vents going to it at all (no idea how that works). The next warmest spot is the landing in the stairs – that is where all the heat goes up in the house.

  23. cara says:

    I’m living in a large house that has been split into 4 units… I live on the bottom floor in a two bedroom apartment, just me and my cat. Building is pre-1970’s and has a dirt floor basement. We get natural gas heat.

    I wish I had a small house to myself at this point… I live next door to frat boys who party all the time… and were playing COD at 5am this morning.

  24. SamiJ says:

    If you have older windows, then seal them up! Get removable caulk & that shrink plastic.
    If you have an attic with a ladder – get a stair insulator!
    If you have ceiling fans, run them clockwise to redirect warmer ceiling air.

  25. DrPizza says:

    The last time Mother Nature dealt us -17F temperatures in Western NY, I cranked the thermostat full blast and got the dining room and living room up to 97 degrees. It’s amazing how much a heat a coal stove can throw off. It’s equally amazing how cheap coal is to heat with compared to natural gas (not an option in many rural areas) and especially propane or fuel oil. Take THAT Mother Nature!

  26. backinpgh says:

    many electric/gas companies have rebate programs for those who install programmable thermostats and other energy-efficient appliances/measures, so that at least offsets some of the cost.

  27. orion70 says:

    I find it hard to keep the doors closed with an older dog who needs letting out about every 45 mins during evening hours.

    I use space heaters during the winter, particularly as for some reason this house doesn’t have heating vents in the bedrooms. And lots of warm clothing and wooly throws for just hanging out on the couch.

    I keep my heat down, but too low is not worth it, especially in an older home. During a particularly cold snap a few years ago I had a shower door shatter. It had been somewhat improperly installed, but the constant cold didn’t help it either. I had been trying to eke out my oil at the time.

    Also for older homes, close doors to unused rooms/block heating vents ONLY if there are no pipes in the vicinity. I have a storage room off my bathroom and the pipes in there can get tempermental if the heat is super low and the door is closed.

  28. cruster says:

    Please tell me that Phil VIllarreal doesn’t get paid for his “work” here.

  29. shthar says:

    Put on a hat.

  30. Wachusett says:

    We found humidifying the air makes a big difference in how cool you can comforably keep the house. We have forced-air heating in a 125 year old house — given the opportunity, the house will get very dry in the winter.

    We find 68 (in the daytime) very comfortable if we use the humidifier to keep the relative humidity around 40%, but chilly if we let the air dry out.

    • dolemite says:

      I’d never thought about that. Our gas furnace dries out the air incredibly. I’d never thought using a humidifier might make it seem warmer.

    • majortom1981 says:

      we have a humidifier in the bedroom. People should also get a portable thermometer that also shows the humidity. This helps in the winter and the summer.

  31. HogwartsProfessor says:

    Natural gas gets really high around here in the winter (in MO), so I bought some of those little oil-filled radiators and use them to supplement my old floor furnace. They work pretty well, and I don’t have to jack up the furnace even when it’s super cold. Also I cover the windows with plastic.

    That last is annoying right now, since it’s 65 today! But oh well. Now all I have to worry about is dying of carbon monoxide poisoning since the furnace is so old. My neighbor who has a nearly identical house and the same furnace got his replaced for free, but then he is old and on a fixed income. I’m poor but I make too much money for that program. :P

  32. u1itn0w2day says:

    One of the things I noticed about winter and some people is that become obsessed with the season and their thermostat setting but NOT wether it is cold or they are cold. It’s like keeping the thermostat/their desired setting is a form of control for them. But the real control again is knowing the difference between feeling the cold and ACTUALLY being cold.

    And yet those same people are angry at the electric bill and the fact they can’t get heating assistance money. Oh no their setting isn’t too high and they shouldn’t have to all those little things to stay warm. They do not want to make adjustments or wonder why their uniform choice of winter wardrobe doesnt’ keep them warm at times. They feel entitled to sit around the house in sub freezing temperature withOUT long johns, a blanket, a flannel shirt, winter socks etc motionless for hours on end wondering why it’s chilly.

  33. brinks says:

    Did you really just tell me to shut my door?

  34. gman863 says:

    If you live in an area (such as Houston or DFW) where you have to choose a Retail Electric Provider, go online and compare rates – they can vary by as much as 30% between different providers.

    * If you’re stuck in an all-electric house, this could save you big bucks.

    * Even if you have gas heat, A/C season also puts a big dent in the electric bill.

    * Don’t be a sucker and pay extra for a “green” (all wind or hydro power) plan. The electric grid doesn’t give you a choice if the power you’re using is from a wind farm or a nuke plant.

    If you live in Texas and want to compare rates, the State’s official posting of rates is at http://www.powertochoose.org/

  35. dragonpancakes says:

    It is often overlooked but as I recently found out Carbon Monoxide actually warms a house well. It wasn’t till I eliminated the leak that my heater started turning on once it reached 60.

  36. karlmarx says:

    I bought a $10 space heater fan at Target and it does a great job of keeping me warm during the day. My thermostat is off usually in my apartment. Just an idea.

  37. KPS2010 says:

    Before having a baby we would have it at 65-66 with toddler we are at 70-72 during the day and 68 at night. With a new furnace system our bill has been under $100 a month couldn’t believe it. I remember paying $200 bills living in at tiny apartment with huge windows.

  38. Jimmy37 says:

    GAWD!! Why are these things repeated every month? Why post it here again and again?
    Personal responsibility! Don’t go crying about big bills if you run around naked, with the windows and door open to the outside.

  39. Dr.Wang says:

    Move to: Phoenix, Rancho Mirage, Tucson, or Yuma.