It’s that time of year again—the time when you dread getting out from under your warm blankets in the morning and into a car that won’t heat up fast enough. It’s the time when you regret moving from temperate Colorado to freezing Indiana.
OK, maybe that’s just me.
But if you’re anywhere in the middle or northern parts of the country, chances are you’re also considering a move to somewhere warmer. The cold, dark winter months can be a struggle to plow through, especially if your heating bill is taking a huge chunk out of your budget. The holiday season is already the most expensive time of the year, so huge utility costs just add insult to injury.
Thankfully, you can reduce that burden with a few small changes. Here are the best ways to cut down on your heating bill this winter.
1. Buy an energy-efficient space heater
Heating the whole house can be expensive and wasteful, especially if you only use a small portion of it.
Set your thermostat a few degrees down and buy a space heater for the rooms you spend the most time in. A lot of space heaters have wheels, so you can take it along as you change rooms.
Not every space heater is designed to save you money, and some older models require huge amounts of electricity to function. Before buying one, check to see if it has energy-saving features like a timer or built-in thermostat. Avoid buying a space heater that only has a basic on/off function. You want a unit that can sense the temperature around it and shut off after reaching a designated limit.
Remember, never run a space heater unless you’re home. They can be a fire hazard if left unattended.
2. Buy a smart thermostat
If you’re still using an old-fashioned thermostat, you could be blowing hundreds of dollars every year.
Consider investing in a programmable thermostat, where you can set the machine to turn on when you’re home and off when you’re at work. The government’s Energy Star program estimates that people can save $180 a year by using a programmable thermostat.
You can also go a step further and buy a smart thermostat, like a Nest or Ecobee. These range from $139 to $199 for the most basic models, and your utility company might even provide a rebate if you purchase one.
A smart thermostat can sense minor temperature changes from activities like cooking and will adjust if necessary. It learns your routines, such as when you’re home, and allow you to change settings while you’re away.
3. Use credit cards to pay your utility bills
While you usually can’t use a credit card to pay your mortgage, utility companies tend to be more accepting.
Look at your utility provider’s online portal to see if paying your bill with a credit card will incur a hefty transaction fee. Then, look at your credit cards to see which offer the best cash back.
Paying your utility bills with a credit card also means you can earn sign-up bonuses faster without manufactured spending.
4. Sign up for budget billing
Budget billing won’t necessarily save you money on the heating bill, but it will make those $400 February electric bills a thing of the past.
With budget billing, your utility company averages your bills throughout the year and gives you the same payment every month. They use the previous year’s data to determine what your average should be and re-calibrates it every year to come up with a more accurate number.
If you end up using significantly more, you receive a bill for the difference. If you spend less, you’ll get a refund.
5. Insulate your attic
Having good insulation will decrease your heating costs for years to come. A home with good insulation will keep the cold air inside during the summer and outside in the winter.
You can pay to have your attic insulated or buy the insulation yourself. If you have the budget, you can also have more insulation pumped through the rest of the house, though you’ll have to cut a hole in the drywall.
These projects will have some upfront costs, but you should see an energy decrease for the rest of the year. Spending more on insulation now could be a wise investment for the next decade.
6. Invest in warm clothing
My husband and I keep our home at a toasty 60 degrees in the winter. At first I thought it was crazy to keep our house so low, but we have an old home with old windows. Keeping it hotter would mean paying hundreds in heating bills.
Instead, we’ve invested in a few warm weather accessories. I wear ski socks inside once winter really starts and a fleece onesie for the days that it gets below 30 degrees. My husband owns an assortment of thick hoodies and high tech base layers.
It might sound crazy to keep our temperature so low, but nowadays I barely notice it. If you buy just a couple extra layers, you can save hundreds on your heating. That winter gear will come in handy outdoors as well.
7. Consider installing solar panels
Okay, so this definitely won’t save you money upfront, but installing solar panels on your home will almost definitely save you a significant amount of money within a few years.
Plus, there’s a huge tax deduction that comes with installing solar panels on your home.
For those who live in cold climates, your heating bill can be a real downer in the winter. Taking steps to reduce your bill can save you a lot of money during the cold winter months.