With the weather getting colder, you might be tempted to simply crank the thermostat to stay warm and then deal with buyer’s remorse when the heating bill arrives. But it doesn’t have to be this way.
By making a few adjustments, you can make your home comfortable without running up the heating bill.
In this article, I’m going to show you how to lower your heating bill this winter. Some of these ideas will cost you some money upfront (but save you down the road). Others don’t cost much, and a few of them don’t cost a penny!
How To Lower Your Heating Bill This Winter
Clark.com wants you to keep as much of your hard-earned money as possible, so in this article, I’ll share some cash-saving tips from money expert Clark Howard, the latest price information on heat-saving tools, and more.
Table of Contents:
- Get a Water Heater Blanket
- Get a Smart Thermostat
- Caulk Around Small Leaks
- Lock In a Low Natural Gas Rate
- Install Energy-Efficient Windows
- Install Energy-Efficient Window Coverings
- Keep Your Home’s Air Flowing
- Keep Your Thermostat on an Optimal Setting
- Make Sure Your Attic Is Well Insulated
- Reverse Your Ceiling Fans
Get a Water Heater Blanket
Newer water heaters are typically well insulated, but if your water heater is more than five years old or has an R-value of less than 24, invest in a water heater blanket. Your wallet will thank you.
“Water heater insulation could reduce standby heat losses by 25%-45% and save you about 7%–16% in water heating costs — and should pay for itself in about a year,” according to the U.S. Energy Department.
The agency says you can find pre-cut jackets or blankets available starting at around $20.
I checked online prices for a water heater blanket in December 2023. Here’s what I found:
Get a Smart Thermostat
For the best energy efficiency in heating your home in the winter, get a programmable smart thermostat. One of our favorites is the Google Nest.
Clark is a big fan of the Nest thermostat. “I’ve tried the Nest at my home and am very happy with its performance. I’ve found it reduces your energy bill by the 30% that’s advertised,” he says.
Here are some places where you can buy a Nest:
Caulk Around Small Leaks
Let’s go over some tips from home improvement guru Dave Baker of TheHomeFixItPage.com, who shares how to lower your heating bill by improving air circulation in your home.
Perform a Blower Test To Find Leaks
Dave says the first thing you need to do before you decide on which insulation projects to tackle is to perform a blower door test, which shouldn’t cost you a thing.
“Good heating and air companies and insulation companies will come to your house and do it for free,” he says.
Here’s what a blower door test entails: “They’ll open up your front door and they’ll put this big sheet around it with a fan that blows out of your house. They’ll turn it on, they’ll blow the air out of your house and you will find every leak of air that comes out of your house because it will be sucked through the fan,” Dave says.
Dave says you shouldn’t be surprised if you find leaks around several windows, doors and your attic.
“A lot of times, painters will come in your house and paint, but they won’t caulk all the way around because they can’t reach all the way around,” he says. “You need to get a little step stool or a little ladder and caulk all the way around the inside of your windows.”
That’s an inexpensive way to seal the warm air in and keep the cold air out — and you can save money by doing it yourself.
Lock In a Low Natural Gas Rate
In most states, what you pay for natural gas is not regulated by the state. Instead, it is determined by the market rate, which means you should be able to shop around for the best deal.
Once you find a low rate, you may be able to lock it in for up to 12 months. See if your state’s natural gas market is deregulated.
If you live in a deregulated state, search for your state’s Public Service Commission (PSC) webpage. There you’ll be able to find monthly energy prices to help you shop for the lowest rate.
In Georgia, the PSC website features quick links to natural gas rates, a gas marketers’ score card and more.
Install Energy-Efficient Windows
Drafty windows can allow your heat to seep right out of your home. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, switching out your old windows for Energy Star-certified replacements can cut your energy bill by an average of up to 13%.
When you replace your windows, it’s important that they match the weather needs in your area. If it’s time for you to change out your windows, check out Consumer Reports’ top window picks (subscription required).
Install Energy-Efficient Window Coverings
Another way to save is to invest in some window coverings.
According to the U.S. Department of Energy, “About 30% of a home’s heating energy is lost through windows. In cooling seasons, about 76% of the sunlight that falls on standard double-pane windows enters to become heat. Window coverings can help with this energy loss and lowering energy bills.”
How much you can save by installing covers to your windows will depend on the type of covering you choose.
Keep Your Home’s Air Flowing
To make sure your home’s air is flowing properly and your heating unit isn’t being overworked, it’s a good idea to routinely check on your home’s HVAC system.
Make sure to check your furnace filter every few months or so, but how often it needs to be replaced depends on several factors. Get more information here.
Keep Your Thermostat on the Optimal Setting
You can get optimal savings if you keep your thermostat adjustments to a minimum depending on the season.
The DOE recommends 68 to 70 degrees as the ideal temperature to save energy in the winter and still be comfortable. The agency also suggests that you consider setting your thermostat lower while you’re asleep or away from the house.
The government agency also says that, no matter what temperature you decide on, you can save about 10% a year (up to hundreds of dollars) on your energy bills by dialing the thermostat back 7-10 degrees from its normal setting for eight hours every day (at night or while you’re at work).
Add Insulation to Your Attic
If you have air leaks in your attic, you’ll need to add some insulation. You can go the do-it-yourself route or hire a professional.
1. Spray-In Foam
“The most expensive thing you can do is to put spray-in foam insulation in your attic,” Dave says. “You can’t do that yourself.”
Foam will make your whole attic area look like a cave — but you can’t beat it, he says. “That is the single best insulation you can put in your house. It will seal all the cracks and leaks in your attic.”
2. Apply Foam Only Where the Leaks Are
There is a less expensive option when it comes to foam, Dave says: “A good insulation contractor will come in and find where all the leaks are, and they’ll use the spray foam just for the leaks. Then they’ll add more blown-in fiberglass insulation on the floor of your attic. That is very good, too and is the second-best thing you can do to save money because it’s going to be less expensive than the whole foamed attic.”
“The third thing you can do, and this is not quite as good because you’re not sealing all the leaks, is just to add more blown-in insulation in your attic,” Dave says.
3. DIY Foam Insulation
“Here’s a good rule of thumb: If you stick your head up in the attic and you can see the joists on the floor of the attic, you don’t have enough insulation, you’re not even really close,” Dave says. “Twenty inches [of thickness] is a good number [for] attic insulation.”
In many cases, insulating your attic with foam can cost upward of $5,000-$6,000 — not cheap.
So is it worth the cost in energy and money savings over the long haul?
Dave says the payback period is shorter than you might think. He says he had full-blown foam insulation installed in his home. “I took meticulous notes and almost every month was the same: You’ll save 29% in the first year,” he says. “The months following have stayed at that level, which means the foam holds its own month after month.”
That means that if you’re paying $400 a month on your energy bill, you’d be saving 30% of that — about $120 — every 30 days. If you multiply that by a year, that’s more than $1,000. After about five or six years, the system will have more than paid for itself, Dave says. And the good thing is that the foam doesn’t degrade, it keeps its quality year after year.
Reverse Your Ceiling Fans
Want more warm air in your room? Put your ceiling fans in reverse during the winter months so they run clockwise. This will allow the fan to push the room air up toward the ceiling and force the warm air down, and that helps to heat the room without giving you the wind chill effect.
By investing some effort, time, and yes, a little money, you can lower your monthly bills, including reducing your home’s heating costs without sacrificing your comfort.
The initial costs associated with a smart thermostat, a water heater blanket and other items will pay off relatively quickly when you look at the amount of money you will have saved over the long haul.
Want more ways to reduce your bills? Read our guide on how to save on utilities.