6 Easy Strategies for Lowering Winter Utility Bills

6 Easy Strategies for Lowering Winter Utility Bills

Most people believe that their utility bill is a fixed cost, but this is NOT true!

When we were living on an income which was 30% under the national median and trying to make headway on some major life goals, we began to look for strategies to reduce every single line item in our monthly budget.

Much like the average utility customer, I didn’t think there were any ways to move the needle of my bill any lower.

I was wrong!

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Here’s a list of 6 strategies that will help you pay less for your gas and electric bills every month.

Strategy #1:

Use A Smart programmable thermostat.

Our NEST Thermostat

On the face of it, replacing your thermostat seems like something that will cost you more money, not less. However, the purchase price of the thermostat is quickly absorbed in extra savings – that is, if you use it! It is estimated that fully one half of all programmable thermostats are not used according to their design. In other words, people install them and then fail to actually program them!

The new smart thermostats allow you to control your heat and cooling from anywhere in town. An internal computer chip facilitates connecting directly with the unit directly via your computer or smart phone. So, you have total control, even when away from home. It is estimated that they save $10-$20 a month on your bill and cost under $200 to purchase new. 

The general idea is that you will save the lion’s share of that money while at work or sleeping. Guidelines advise an “at home” setting of 68 ° and a “sleeping” and “away at work” setting of 10° less. You should program the heat to begin to rise about an hour before you get home from work or get up in the morning. The secret to success is to avoid needless, repeated swings in temperatures throughout any 24 hour time period.

Our Experience with a smart thermostat:

Technology as a whole is beginning to grow on me, especially as my 20 year old shows me the advantages of using smart technology to make my life easier. I’m not as afraid of the learning curve as I once was. In fact, it is super easy to use and pretty intuitive for a non-tech savvy girl like me.

We really HAVE saved money by using our new NEST thermostat. Here’s why. The new thermostat has simply made us more aware of how we use power. When you move the temperature up or down, the LED display tells you exactly how many minutes it will take until you achieve the desired result. Instantly, you can decide if you really want to vary it by 4 °, when just 1 or 2 will do. As a result, we have more often than not, put on more layers rather than move the thermostat.

DOLLARS AND CENTS:  Check your utility company to see if they are currently offer a rebate on a smart technology for your home. My company is offering a $100 REBATE right now! 

Strategy #2:

Seal cracks around your home’s windows and foundation.

Last winter we endured weeks of subzero temperatures. As the mercury plummeted, I was astounded to see that ice had formed on the inner edges of my brand new windows! There was a clear line of solid ice, not only where the edges of the window met the sill, but also where the windows were welded together!

We used a product called “window putty” or “caulking cord” to seal up the offending areas.  If you rent, you can still use this product! It feels like clay or play dough, doesn’t dry out, and comes off of surfaces easily and cleanly.

Renters and renters alike can also use bubble wrap or window sealer kits. These are super inexpensive and provide an extra barrier or protection against the cold.

DOLLARS AND CENTS:

You can find both window putty and window sealer kits for under $5 each. You can get bubble wrap free by simply repurposing pieces you receive in packages or shipments.

Strategy #3:

Use ceiling fans.

It seems counterintuitive to turn on a fan in the winter time, doesn’t it? But, when you consider some simple science, it really isn’t. Warm air rises. That’s right! Your furnace is pumping warm air into your home, and it is hanging out near the ceiling. Want proof? Try this experiment. Place your hand near the floor and then directly near the top of an interior wall. You will notice a marked difference. It is physically warmer at the ceiling level.

So, turning ceiling fans counterclockwise on a low speed will push warmer air away from the ceiling and direct it down toward the floor, while simultaneously drawing colder air away from the floor and toward the ceiling. Brilliant!

DOLLARS AND CENTS:

Fans cost an average of just $.01 per hour to run. That’s a whole lot less than turning your thermostat up.

Strategy #4:

Change your furnace filter.

Many people don’t realize how detrimental it is to neglect regular furnace filter changes. In fact, a friend who is in the heating and cooling business told me that this is the number one problem he sees in customer’s homes.

Why does a new furnace filter matter? Your furnace filter is designed to keep dirt, lint, and other airborne contaminants out of your furnace blower fan. When the filter becomes clogged, the air cannot flow properly, causing the furnace to work harder and run longer. Basically, you are increasing your utility bills, while simultaneously decreasing the life of your furnace.

DOLLARS AND CENTS:

Filters vary wildly in cost from under $5 to as much as $40. As a rule of thumb, if you use a thin, blue, fiberglass filter, change it every 6 to 8 weeks. The more expensive, pleated ones need to be replaced quarterly. Basically, when the seasons change, it’s time to put in a new furnace filter. Mark your calendar or set a reminder on your cell phone to help you remember when it’s time to check your filter for debris and replace if needed.

Strategy #5:

Buy lined drapes.

Our first rental home was a 550 square foot, 1 bedroom, century old home. That winter, I stood in the living room and watched the drapes physically move when the cold wind thundered and snow blew against the house.

Within a week, we found some ugly (and yet functional) lined drapes at Goodwill.  There was an immediate and marked difference in both our comfort level and our utility bills. Nope! They weren’t pretty. But, then again, I realized that these ugly drapes weren’t forever, either.

DOLLARS AND CENTS:

If you really don’t want to replace your drapes, just get a few new panels in a complimentary color try layering them over the existing drapes. The extra thickness of fabric will block some of the draft. In a pinch, hanging a heavy blanket or a quilt over the window will do a great job at insulating against cold. If you are in the market for new curtains, then look for drapes that “puddle” at the floor. Victorian homes did this all the time. The fabric at the floor level helps stop some of the cold air.

Strategy #6:

Turn your thermostat down

I already mentioned installing a SMART thermostat and I certainly recommend that you do that. However, having great technology does not guarantee a lower bill if the number on the dial does not change.

Wearing a sweater and heavy socks around the house is not a great sacrifice to make if you want to save some money. We keep several throw blankets in each sitting area. So if you are chilly, a layer of warmth is close at hand. Additionally, we have found that flannel sheet sets make a huge difference in comfort level when trying to sleep. We waited until they hit about 75% off in the spring and then bought a set for each bed, paying less than $25 for a set, which was regularly priced at nearly $100. Thermal and heating blankets are other options for sleeping comfort.

DOLLARS AND CENTS:

We turn the temperature down 1 degree at a time in the winter until we are truly uncomfortable in a room. Then, we turn the thermostat up 1 degree and leave it there. When we began doing this regularly, it saved us 10% on our bill!

2 thoughts on “6 Easy Strategies for Lowering Winter Utility Bills”

  1. Yes! We were actually given a smart thermostat, and it definitely saves because it turns down the heat for us when we forget or when we are away. I need to be more diligent about the other money-saving tips, though!

    • It’s so cool that you were given one! It’s amazing, isn’t it how much something simple like systematically programming our thermostat can make a difference in the total of our bill? But, it’s true! It does!

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