You don’t have to go far to find discussion about high energy prices for the winter of 2021-22; Many news outlets are reporting double digit increases in natural gas prices (CNBC, US EIA, US BLS) and electricity for the US. The bottom line is you will likely see an increase in the cost to heat and light your home this winter. According to a recent Minnesota Public Radio report, US homes can expect to spend 30-50% more this year on heating their homes. For most in cold states like the Upper Midwest, this is a meaningful expense. So how can you tackle it? Here are some ways to combat those high bills this winter ranging from ridiculously easy to more difficult. Read on for some useful tips!
Easy Tactics (low-cost, low-effort)
- Lower your thermostat – each degree you lower your thermostat (for a period of 8 hours) can lower your heating bill by 1%.
- Invest in a programmable thermostat – Programming your thermostat so it’s not running at full temp all day can save you up to 10% monthly.
- Weather-seal windows and doors – Buying foam gasket to fill gaps and adding poly film to windows (especially old windows) can improve comfort and reduce drafts as well as stemming heat loss
- Have your furnace service and cleaned – you should be doing this every two years anyway, but making sure your system is working in top shape is a great way to ensure you stay warm and don’t spend too much money this winter.
- Replace your Furnace Filter – While we’re at it, make sure you maintain the equipment you do have and ensure it continues to function properly.
- Shut doors in unused rooms – Have you noticed how that room you closed off feels cold when you enter it? Less airflow means less heat. While small, you’re actually heating a fractionally smaller home!
- Cook a meal – You still use gas or electricity to heat your oven, but cooking a meal has the benefit of introducing heat into your home and you can even realize savings over ordering takeout.
- Let in the light! – When days are short, opening the curtains on sunny days will typically make the space more comfortable. It’s an easy fix and does good for our spirits too.
Moderate Tactics (can cost more, or require more time commitment).
- Install a “smart” thermostat – modern thermostats have nearly infinite programability. These start just below $100 and can be installed in minutes, giving you lots of control (and home monitoring capabilities) from near or far.
- Reconsider your window coverings – Thermal curtains, and to a lesser degree, heavy curtains can help minimize heat loss. This can add up when doing the whole house but can be immediately beneficial in the rooms you use most.
- Add a space heater – when combined with a lower thermostat, use of a space heater puts warmth where you need it now. Keep in mind that space heaters are generally electric so constant use is going to add up to a bigger electric bill.
- Air seal your attic – This project can tiptoe into the expensive range, but many older homes feature attic bypasses where heat is constantly escaping. Nationally this project can range from $1000-4000 with the average being around $2750*
TOP TIER TACTICS (Definitely cost more, may not be actionable immediately)
- Get an Energy Audit – The audit itself is free to a few hundred dollars and is often provided through your energy provider, but depending on the remedies recommended, could be a long term plan as much as a short one.
- Install new windows – Windows get overlooked, but newer windows are high technology and can go a long way to making your home more comfortable and decreasing your energy bills.
- Replace your old furnace – a 20 year old furnace operates at roughly 78% efficiency. New high-efficiency models generally are rated at 94%
- Consider a heat pump – many modern heating systems can include heat pumps (some that boast 300% more heat generation than the energy consumed). Check with an HVAC professional to see if this is right for you.
There’s more you can do, but you’re now armed with more than a dozen potential remedies for high heating bills. My intent is that many of these are simple and something you can do to make meaningful changes today. Got any other tips? Leave them in the comments below for others.