In October of this year, the EIA, the Energy Information Administration, released its outlook for the winter months. In this report, the group announced that nearly all Americans will be digging a bit deeper into their pockets when it comes time to pay their heating bills in the coming months. In an interview with CNN, Energy Secretary, Jennifer Granholm, echoed this sentiment, stating that, “It’s going to happen. It will be -- it will be more expensive this year than last year.” The culprit? You may have guessed it, the ongoing pandemic. According to the experts (in comparison to last year’s prices), you can expect to pay around 54% more for propane, 43% more for home heating oil, 30% more for natural gas, and 6% more for electric heat. With this hot gossip (get it?), and the temperatures oldside dropping, what is the frugal homeowner to do?
One relatively simple way to chip away at those heating bills is to lower the temperature of your water heater. To be clear, the goal is not to drop the temp so low that you are shivering through your showers, but rather to lower the temperature just a bit. Odds are, if you were to drop the set temperature by around 20 degrees, from 140 degrees fahrenheit (which is the default temperature on many water heaters) to 120 degrees fahrenheit, you won’t really notice the change on a daily basis, but you could lower your bill by 6 to 10 percent.
Set it and Forget it
One of the most common home upgrades in recent years is the programmable thermostat. This fancy-schmancy device allows the thrifty homeowner to consider the daily schedules of all those within the household and customize the temperature to keep everyone comfortable, while still saving energy and money. By setting your thermostat to keep your home at a (relatively) comfortable 68 degrees, while you are home and awake, and then slightly (or more) lower when you are not at home or sleeping, you can look to save as much as 10% a year. There is a thin line to walk, however, as setting the temperature too low could backfire. If you venture down too low, you could end up spending more energy (and money) in attempts to get back up to a comfortable temperature.
Pay Some Attention to Your Furnace
We have made mention of this fiery fiend many times on this site, but it cannot be overstated that giving your furnace a little TLC will help it to run more efficiently, therefore saving you money both in the short and long term. Having your furnace looked over by the pros on a regular basis can help to extend the life of this constant workhorse, all while keeping its day-to-day performance in tip-top shape. The easiest (and very necessary) step that you can take to help your furnace run at peak performance is to replace the filters often. Most professionals recommend changing your filter AT LEAST every three months, but suggest upping the frequency in the winter when your system is working overtime.
It’s the Little Things
There are a few little things that you and your family can do to help keep the temperatures up, without even having to touch the thermostat. While these tactics may not make a huge dent, at least you’ll feel like you’re doing SOMETHING.
Get Steamy - While taking a shower, keep the bathroom door open, and leave the vent fan off so that the steamy air can move through the connecting rooms. While you may be sacrificing a bit of privacy, and the rest of your household may be forced to listen to you belting out your greatest hits, you can remind them that it is, infact, for the greater good.
What’s Cookin’ Good Lookin’? - Cooking dinner at home won't just save you when it comes to shelling out the cash to pay for a meal, It can also help to add a few degrees of warmth to your house, allowing you to avoid turning up the dial on the heater. Using your oven and/or stove can help to push the temps up just a bit in your kitchen and surrounding spaces. Let us be clear, however, it is NOT safe or advisable in any way, or under any circumstance, to use your oven as your main heating device. What we suggest is reaping the added benefit of a bit more warmth while you are simultaneously providing your family with a hot meal.
Love Layers - While this tip won't actually raise the temperature of your home, it can make it more comfortable to keep your home at a slightly lower temperature. It is, the ultimate dad advice --“You’re cold? Put on a sweater.” If lowering the thermostat a bit is keeping you from feeling all warm and cozy, add some layers. Socks, pants, sweaters, you get the idea. Now, you probably don’t want to sit in your home in an outfit suited for exploration of the frozen tundra, but you probably don’t need to have your thermostat set so high that you can lounge around in your skivvies in the middle of January. There is likely some middle ground that you can find if you are willing to attempt it.