11 Ways to Keep Warm and Lower Your Energy Bills This Winter

Parents smiling on a sofa with their kids all covered with one blanket

When icy weather creeps in, you’re likely to spend more days snuggled in your cozy living room. But what if your home is wasting more fuel and electricity than ever before? High energy bills are the wrong way to get heated. To help you out, we’ve come up with 11 ways to keep warm and lower your energy bills this winter.  

Sealing up air leaks, maintaining the heating system, and using energy-efficient appliances are all effective ways to get you toasty and reduce energy costs. Let’s dive into more detail and explore other measures to help you attain both goals.

11 Ways to Keep Warm and Lower Energy Bills

Wearing more clothes and switching off the heating unit is one way to go, but how long can you keep that going? We’ve come up with effective ways to keep warm and save money, without the need of putting on two pairs of winter socks! 

1. Seal Up Air Leaks

Man checks for gaps between the window and the frame using a white sheet
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First things first, you need to inspect your home for leaks that will let in cold air. Such leaks can be a serious drain on your energy bills, especially if your heating units work harder to heat up your rooms. Windows are a major example of an area that lets in cold air. According to the US Department of Energy, about 30% of a home’s heating energy is lost through windows. 

When inspecting your home, you should pay special attention to the following areas:

  • Front and back doors
  • Window frames
  • Electrical outlets
  • Attic hatches
  • Wall- or window-mounted air conditioners
  • Vents and fans
  • Mail slots

Since air is invisible, it’s not as simple as spotting a water leak. Don’t worry, you can try the good ol’ candle test! All you have to do is carefully light one up and hold it near the window, door, and other areas you suspect. If you see the flame flicker, you’ve found an air leak. 

Once you’ve spotted the leaks, it’s time to stop the cold air from getting in. You can buy some caulk and weather stripping equipment for an easy and inexpensive fix. Weather strips are available in rubber or plastic, and stick easily to frames of doors and windows. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions to get the job done right. 

2. Install a Programmable Thermostat

smart thermostat
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A programmable or digital thermostat allows you to monitor your heat usage and preset temperatures for different times of the day. It automatically reduces the heat while you’re at work, sleeping, or taking the little ones to a soccer match. Once you’re back home and feeling a little chilly, you can switch it up again. 

To shave as much as 10% off your annual heating bill, we recommend setting the thermostat down by 7 to 10 degrees for approximately 8 hours a day. You’ll spend less on energy bills without freezing and sacrificing comfort. 

3. Replace the Furnace Filter

Senior Man Changing a Dirty Air Filter in a HVAC Furnace
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We’ll get to basic maintenance in the following section, but this is a DIY-friendly task that is more frequent than tune-ups. Furnace filters must be changed periodically for the entire heating system to function properly. Dirty and unchanged filters will trap dust and other debris that reduce proper airflow throughout your home. 

In addition to releasing dirty air, a clogged unit forces the forced-air system to work harder. Following this, an increase on the energy bill is inevitable. During the peak heating season, it is best to replace the filters on a monthly basis.  

4. Maintain Your Heating System

Woman bleeding a radiator
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No matter the type of heating system installed in your home, you should stick to a regular maintenance schedule during peak usage periods. This ensures that your heating system is functioning properly. Inspecting and fixing heaters generally requires an experienced technician, but you may perform some maintenance tasks yourself. 

If your home relies on a boiler system for heating, then you may need to bleed the radiators when they stop emitting thermal energy. Bleeding a radiator means releasing the trapped air inside the radiator, preventing hot water or steam from reaching the top half. 

Overall, any other repairs or major tune-ups should be done by HVAC professionals. 

5. Use Energy Efficient Appliances

Purchasing energy-efficient appliances may cost more initially, but will help you cut energy costs and reduce pollution in the long run. Essentially, they use less energy to get the job done. For example, an energy-efficient electric heat pump water heater may cost about $700 more than a standard electric water heater, but savings can add up to $3,500 over the equipment’s lifespan.  

In addition to heat pumps, energy-efficient appliances include:

  • Dehumidifiers
  • Boilers
  • Ventilation fans
  • Ceiling Fans
  • Televisions
  • LED light bulbs
  • Refrigerators and dishwashers

When shopping for appliances such as LED light bulbs, look out for the ones with a blue ENERGY STAR label. The ENERGY STAR program is run by the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection Agency. The blue label certifies that a product meets the high efficiency standards set by these two government agencies. ENERGY STAR LEDs use 90% less energy than incandescent light bulbs, all while providing the same illumination. 

You should also be mindful of leaving your appliances on standby rather than switching them off. Doing so can increase energy consumption over time, and in turn, energy bills. To counter this, you can purchase a smart power strip to automatically turn off devices which are not being used. 

6. Close the Fireplace Damper

Keeping the fireplace damper open is similar to leaving a window open. All the money you spent on heating would go up the chute. Forgetting to close the damper allows cold air to sneak in, while hot air escapes through the chimney. Unless a fire is burning, you should keep it closed to keep the heat from escaping. If you’re not a fan of cozying up next to the fireplace, you can plug and seal the chimney flue. This almost completely limits the amount of air leaks. 

7. Open the Drapes

Rear view of young homeowner woman opening drapes at window
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Working from home on a sunny day? Open the drapes to get some of that vitamin D! Sunny days might be rare in certain regions during the winter, but you should take full advantage when the forecast reveals so. Opening the drapes during a sunny day is a free way to boost the temperature of your room via solar energy. 

If your work makes you forgetful, set a reminder to close the drapes before sunset. Doing so during the winter can reduce heat loss by up to 10%. 

8. Keep Air Vents Clear of Furniture

If your home has a forced-air heating system, blocking a supply or return vent can disrupt the heat flow. This means that your furnace will work harder than it should, further increasing your energy bills. 

A couch, chair, or even a bed can block the flow of heat into the room and increase pressure in your ductwork. Clearing vents ensures that all your rooms are properly heated with good air circulation. 

9. Insulate the Attic

Worker Spraying Blown Fiberglass Insulation between Attic Trusses
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Don’t let this section’s placement diminish its importance. Attic insulation is one the most important measures to keep your home warm and cut energy costs. In terms of numbers, you can save an average of 15% on cooling and heating costs. Insulating your attic will also prolong your HVAC unit’s life since it won’t overwork to produce thermal energy. 

Here are some more benefits to attic insulation:

  • Improve your home’s indoor air quality
  • Reduce the risk of frozen pipes (interior)
  • Help reduce noise pollution

10. Use Ceiling Fans

Man installing a ceiling fan
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You may think we’re confused with an article on cooling tips, but that’s not the case. Ceiling fans are just as useful in the winter as they are during the summer. If a room needs cooling, fans will rotate in a counterclockwise direction. By switching directions, you will also be switching the role of the fan. 

If you reverse the motor in the ceiling fan to a clockwise direction, it will force warm air down into the occupied space. After all, heat that’s stuck at the top of the room is not useful. You can usually change this setting directly on the fan, just look for a switch located on its base. For proper heat flow, it’s best to keep the fan’s rotation on a low speed. 

11. Wear Appropriate Clothing

Feet against fireplace in cozy winter socks
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Time to make use of those colorful and soft winter socks. It’s no surprise that wearing more clothes makes you feel warmer, but it may be the most comfortable approach. When your heating unit is switched on, you might not need too many layers to stay warm. But if you’re giving the unit a rest, you can put on an extra layer to avoid feeling frosty. 

A good example is when your thermostat is set on lower temperatures when you’re sleeping. We recommend purchasing pajamas specifically made from soft materials to help you get a good night’s rest.  

Signs Your Home is Wasting Energy

If you do not consider any of the energy-saving measures, your home will find ways to communicate with you through signs. If you ignore signs of wasted energy, you’ll be reaching for your wallet far more than usual. 

Here are some signs to look out for:

  • Condensation on windows: This means that your home isn’t properly insulated or ventilated. 
  • Drafts: These are caused by leaks around windows, doors, and other parts of the house.
  • High energy bill: The most obvious sign that your heating or cooling unit is in desperate need of maintenance. 
  • Ice dams on your roof: They are caused by heat escaping into the attic and melting snow on your roof. Ice dams may also cause water leaks in different parts of your home. 

FAQ About Low Energy Consumption

What appliances use energy when switched off? 

It may come as a surprise that some devices consume energy even when switched off, or inactive. A typical American household has several appliances that constantly draw power. When put together, they can amount up to 10% of your residential electricity use! 

To save energy, here are some devices to unplug when inactive (rarely used):

  • Rarely used audio equipment (sound systems, old boom boxes)
  • Power supplies for e-bikes during off-season
  • Printers, scanners, and fax machines
  • Microwaves and other kitchen appliances
  • Phone chargers
  • Coffee makers
  • Nightlights with automatic light sensors
  • Desktop computers, especially when traveling

What is the cheapest way to heat a house? 

Generally speaking, the initial cost of installing furnaces is lower than boiler systems. As for the energy source, natural gas tends to be the cheapest option in most parts of the country. For you to install a gas-powered furnace, your home needs to have a natural gas pipeline. 

Natural gas furnaces have a higher installation cost than electric units, but will pay off the difference with lower operating costs (long-term). 

What are some tips for the safe and efficient use of chimneys? 

Relaxing by the fireplace is such a warm and cozy moment. However, things may start to go wrong if you have a dirty chimney. It can cause fires, resulting in devastating damage to your home and family. 

To keep your chimney from getting dirty and causing fires, here are some important tips:

  • Open the damper wide enough to get rid of all the smoke through the flue
  • Do not burn unseasoned wood
  • Do not restrict the air supply
  • Keep a metal screen in front of the fireplace to keep embers from jumping out
  • Do not burn paper
  • Double-check that the fire is out before sleeping or leaving the house
  • Put ashes in a metal container (with a lid) at least 3 feet away from your home 

More Snugness for Less Energy

It’s great to feel warm and comfortable while consuming as little energy as possible. From weatherstripping windows to using energy-efficient LEDs, these measures will reduce your utility bills and carbon footprint. Some measures don’t even require any spending, such as opening the drapes to let in the sun’s heat energy. 

When maintaining your heating units, it’s best to leave it to licensed HVAC technicians. Why is that important? Experts will use proper equipment, apply safety measures, and ensure your unit will operate efficiently during the coldest months of the year. To prepare your home for the winter, we’ll help you connect to a local heating system professional.

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Jeffery Keusseyan

Jeffery Keusseyan is a writer with a knack for research and handiperson skills. He enjoys writing about home improvement projects and efficient ways to maintain your home exterior.