The never ending battle of high energy costs versus a warm home this winter can have a person ready to move to warmer climes. However, don't despair, as there are options and they don't include wearing a sweater to bed. A few quick and simple tricks can save you hundreds of dollars this winter on your heating bills and you will still be warm and toasty.
Lower the thermostat and raise the humidity. Increasing the humidity of the home will not raise the temperature but will make a lower ambient temperature feel warmer. They say it is not the heat; it is the humidity. Well, that is in fact true. Higher humidity levels make the feel like temperature of a home warmer. Installing a whole house humidifier can be a time consuming and sometimes costly expenditure. Simple room humidifiers can be used in a pinch, along with alternative no cost humidity raising methods. Purchase two or three energy efficient large room humidifiers such as for a child's sick room. Create a space for the humidifier where excess moisture will not condense on wooded surfaces. Following the manufacturer's instruction, turn it on. No cost methods include allowing steam from showers to escape into the rest of the home and adding tea kettles or pots filled with water to the tops of wood burning stoves. Small bowls or pails filled with water can be placed near heat registers for forced air systems.
Time and lower your thermostat to reduce energy consumption in non-peak hours. Do not run your heating system at normal occupancy temperatures during late evening hours while family members are fast asleep, or while off to school or work. Invest in a programmable thermostat and set the temperatures lower by 10-15 degrees at night or when the family is not present. Additionally, lower the overall temperature of the home by five degrees. The change is relatively imperceptible but the cost savings is justifiable.
Comparison shop for the cheapest gas and electricity prices from other suppliers. Heating oil prices can vary not only from supplier to supplier but also from season to season. Consider budgeting for your winter heating requirements through the summer when heating oil prices are down. Look into payment plans, scheduled delivery and discount programs for large deliveries. Comparison shop for electricity as well. Deregulation has created an entire new industry of independent energy suppliers. Investigate these options in your area. Planning for a cold winter should take place months in advance, not with the first frost. Being prepared is half the battle.
If lowering the temperature in the overall house is a bit much for young children, seniors or those households with exotic pets, conduct an energy audit. Determine where your heat is going. It isn't enough to search out the cheapest energy in your area, if you are going to allow your savings to leak out of the house every time you turn the heat on. Check windows, doors, basements and attics for possible heat losses. Use a candle check for drafts around windows and doors and correct with new weather stripping or storm coverings as needed. The minor cost of weather proofing your home is usually paid back in the first heating season and often in the first one or two months.
Taking the time to increase humidity, installing programmable thermostats, comparing heating fuel costs and conducting an energy audit can save an average family of four living in a 1,500 square foot, single family home over $300 during the first winter. That saving will continue to rack up each season with minimal upkeep. Checking windows and doors twice a year, along with managing home temperatures based on season, will not only keep the home warmer in winter, but cooler in summer.