I’ve consulted energy experts, builders, utility consultants and savvy homeowners to come up with 50 ways to cut your heat bill.
Some are simple. Some require you to buy some inexpensive items. All of the tips will help you keep your home or apartment warm and comfortable without breaking the bank. Watch the slideshow.
1. Take advantage of the warmth delivered by sunlight. Prune or remove tree branches and other barriers to give your home more exposure.
2. Close External Leaks. Mail chutes, water faucets and the spot around the dryer vent could all be sending heat and dollars outside. Be sure to secure the obvious openings.
3. Inspect your house for hidden openings. Have a friend stand outside and shine a high-powered flashlight around the exterior. Any light leaks you see inside translate to heat leaks, so seal them. The process may look strange, but it’ll save you money.
4. Use leftover incense to help you test for drafts. A drifting line of smoke, rather than a straight one, could indicate a problem.
5. Lock your windows. Locking your windows helps keep intruders from getting in and it’s also the best way to ensure a tight seal to prevent heat from getting out.
6. If the putty in your windows is dry and cracked, add newer sealant. Seal any visible cracks with the weather stripping or cloth. Newspapers will do if you are on a tight budget.
7. Make sure storm windows are installed and closed properly. If you have older, single pane windows, uses plastic film kits that create the effect of an interior storm window.
8. Look for drafts anywhere different materials meet, like walls, foundations, wood, bricks, chimneys and siding.
9. Weather stripping kits are available at a reasonable cost. If you don’t want to invest in a full caulking gun, it’s available in aerosol cans, ropes and squeeze tubes at many hardware stores.
10. Check with your utility company to see if it does energy assessments. Many perform them free at low cost and bring in sophisticated equipment that can pinpoint problem areas.
11. A dust-free home is not only easy on the eyes, but it also saves you money. Make sure vents aren’t obstructed by furniture and draperies and regularly clean them. Dust build-up on your heat registers and radiators interferes with the flow of heat.
12. Cool off with a ceiling fan during the warm summer months. Ceiling fans can help you circulate warm air when it’s cold out. Check for the reverse switch to push warm air down where you want it.
13. Even closed doors can allow plenty of heat loss. If there’s a gap, roll up a small rug and place it across the bottom of the doorway.
14. A drafty window near your thermostat is a major problem. Cold air blowing near the temperature sensor can turn your heat system on unnecessarily.
15. An unused room can be a waste of heat and money. Close the vents and registers in unused rooms, but be careful about rooms with water pipes passing under them. They could freeze if the temperatures dip too low.
16. Unless you are burning wood, keep your fireplace damper closed. An open damper invites about 8 percent of your furnace’s heated air up the chimney.
17. Window air conditioners are another summer appliance in need of winter hibernation. Unplug them, close the vents and put a special cover on them to complete the seal.
18. Heat escape often occurs at the highest and lowest levels of your home. Heat rises to your attic and so will your heating bill if you ignore the leaks. A simple seal around the trap door can translate into big savings.
19. Basement floors, crawl spaces and your garage can actually waste more heat than drafty doors or windows. Insulate them and get ready to put 500 dollars back in your pocket.
20. Get up early to open the shades and drapes. Sunlight can help your heating system maintain comfortable temperatures.
21. A programmable thermostat is not that expensive and it can save you plenty of money. Set your heat to start a half hour before you come home. When you arrive, the chill should be out of the house.
22. A service professional should do an annual check up on your heating system. A furnace servicing includes a thorough cleaning of the blower and nozzle (if it uses oil), and making any necessary adjustments.
23. Fuel oil and propane prices are usually cheaper in the late summer or early fall. That’s when you should negotiate fuel contracts for the entire season. Negotiations can be done with other energy sources, like if you get gas from Con Edison.
24. Use a sweater and an extra blanket and set the thermostat at 68 degrees during the day and 60 degrees at night. This is a proven way to save hundreds of dollars, but you must be consistent.
25. Increase your perception of warmth by adding a furnace humidifier. Sixty-eight degrees with moisture can feel warmer than a dry home at 72 degrees.
26. Be patient. The house will not warm up any faster if you crank the thermostat past the desired temperature and you’re likely to forget to turn it back down.
27. Your water heater can be wrapped in a utility blanket to keep the heat in.
28. If your water is so hot that you have to mix it with cold water to use it, then you are wasting money. Turn down your water heater to a comfortable 120 degrees or less.
29. Insulate the stretch of pipe coming out of the top of your water heater to the wall. While you are there, insulate around the hot water pipe and heat ducts that run through the basement and other unheated crawl spaces.
30. Change or clean your furnace filters once a month. It’s easy to do and will save you a lot of money.
31. When cooking, use the oven window. Each time you open the oven you lose 20 to 50 percent of the heat and you slow down the cooking process.
32. Use the microwave for cooking whenever possible. It’s more energy efficient than a traditional oven.
33. Cut your hot water expenses with low flow showerheads and faucets. You can save a savings of 10-16 percent of water heating costs.
34. Faucet aerators help conserve water. Your budget and planet Earth will both thank you for it.
35. Refrigerate only your food. Close a dollar in the refrigerator door. If it pulls out easily with little resistance, then the seals should be replaced.
36. Check your refrigerator temperature settings. Set them to 40 degrees for the cold section and zero degrees for the freezer.
37. Pack your refrigerator efficiently. In the cold section, spread the items apart to allow cool air to circulate. The freezer is a different story.
38. Set the dishwasher on economy. It allows the dishes to air dry without heat.
39. Kitchen and bath ventilating fans help prevent mold. Remember to turn them off after 20 minutes or you may be blowing heated air outside.
40. Whether you are washing dishes or clothes, washing only a partial load is a waste of your money.
41. Use new energy efficient light bulbs. The new models provide good light coverage, different settings and some use just one-third the energy of a standard bulb.
42. Motion sensors for lights are cheap and easy to install. They’ll switch on when you enter and turn themselves off after you leave the room.
43. Power smart appliances usually come with an energy star label. Whether it’s a major kitchen purchase or just a smaller stereo for the family room, the energy star seal tells you it’s made to conserve, not waste, your power.
44. Speaking of waste, stand-by appliances can add a constant 50-watt drain to your power supply. TVs, VCRs and other devices continue to use energy even after you switch them off. Unplug them when not in use, unless you need power to preserve special setting or programming.
45. Set your computer to go to sleep after you’ve been away for 10 to 15 minutes.
46. When it’s time to call it a night, turn your computer completely off. You’ll save even more.
47. Open fireplaces are notorious energy wasters. Use glass doors to let the fire burn out more efficiently and safely.
48. Consider portable electric heaters. New federal regulations require all portable heaters manufactured after July 2008 to include enhanced energy saving features. So it may be less expensive to use a small space heater than cranking up the furnace if you only want to heat one room or supplement inadequate heating in a certain area. However, for the strategy to work, you have to keep all the doors to the room closed.
49. Buy seasoned firewood by the cord. Mini stacks of firewood are a poor bargain.
50. Think solar. Solar energy is becoming more practical with everything from address signs to sidewalk light powered by the sun.