by Dr. Charlotte Gorman
With winter fast approaching, it is time to consider ways you can keep your home heating costs as low as possible and still be comfortable.
Older persons should be careful to not turn the heat too low, because they are more likely to be susceptible to hypothermia - which develops when body heat is lost to a cool or cold environment faster than it can be replaced. Infants and people with certain diseases are also especially at risk. People with circulatory problems and those taking certain types of medications may also be vulnerable.
Below are some tips which should save you a considerable amount of money on your winter heating bill:
1. If your home is equipped with a central heating system, try setting the thermostat between 65 and 70 degrees F in the winter during the day. Use a room thermometer to check the temperature in your home if your particular type of heating unit (for example, a baseboard, through-the-window, or portable unit) does not give the temperature in degrees. Experiment--you may be able to turn the setting down even a few more degrees and still be comfortable. Each degree makes a difference in the utility bill.
2. To save on your utility bill, turn down the heat considerably or turn it off at bedtime during the winter. (See number 3 below for exceptions.) Use extra cover or an electric blanket for added warmth.
3. If you are going to be away from home, turn the heat down to save on your utility bill. Maybe even turn the heating unit off if you will be away for an extended period of time (if your pipes are well insulated so your water will not freeze and burst the pipes, your house plants or other items will not freeze, and you don't leave a pet in the house).
4. If you are building a new home or replacing your present heating unit, check to see if, in your area, a gas heating unit, an electric heating unit, or a fuel oil heating unit would be cheaper to operate. Consider building or buying accordingly.
5. If you plan to buy a new gas heating unit, ask your gas utility office and dealers in gas heating units about the potential savings of electronic ignition (rather than a pilot light which burns all the time). You should realize significant savings on your gas bill with electronic ignition.
6. If you plan to buy a new electric heating unit, consider installing a heat pump for heating and cooling your house. A heat pump can cut your use of electricity for heating by 30 to 40 percent and also might provide some savings in cooling costs. Ask experts about the possible benefits of using a heat pump in your geographical area.
7. If you plan to buy a new furnace, check around for the most energy efficient models.
8. Keep the doors of cabinets, pantries, closets, and storage rooms which are inside the house closed. It is a waste of money to heat them unless there is some vital reason for doing so.
9. During cold weather, when you are inside the house, wear several relatively loose, warm layers of dark-colored clothing. Wear warm socks and "closed" shoes. Wear long underwear and slacks. Wear long-sleeved blouses, shirts, and sweaters. Wearing such clothing should enable you to keep the heat at a lower setting.
10. During the winter months, when you are inside the house, wear a hat to help you stay warm. A large amount of body heat is lost through the head. Wearing a hat should enable you to reduce your home heat a little.
11. During the winter, while you are inside the house, wear a scarf around your neck to avoid significant heat loss through the neck. Wearing a scarf should enable you to lower the heat a bit.
12. Use the kitchen and bathroom ventilating fans sparingly during cold weather. In just one hour, these fans can blow away a houseful of heated air. Turn them off just as soon as they have done their jobs.
13 During cool weather, after you have turned off the oven and after the food has finished cooking, open the oven door to allow the remaining heat to help warm the kitchen.
14. Make sure that draperies, furniture, and other items are not obstructing the heat coming from the heating vents. If heat is obstructed, then you are not getting the full benefit of the heat for which you are paying. For example, if a floor vent is positioned so that most of the heat from the vent is going behind the draperies, then you are definitely wasting money. Inexpensive plastic heat directors can be purchased that will direct the flow of heat out into the room.
15. Have your heating unit checked periodically by a professional service person to make sure it is operating at peak energy efficiency.
16 Clean or replace the filter regularly (every month or so depending on the frequency of use of the unit) in your heating/cooling unit. When the filter is dirty, the energy efficiency of the unit is reduced.
17. Dust or vacuum radiator surfaces frequently. Dust impedes the flow of heat.
18. Insulate accessible heating ducts in unheated areas, such as the attic. Insulation minimizes heat loss during the winter.
About the Author
Dr. Charlotte Gorman is an Extension Agent - Family and Consumer Sciences, Texas Cooperative Extension, Texas A & M University System. She is the author of The Frugal Min d, The Little Book of Living Frugal, and Speak for Yourself: A Handbook on Practical Public Speaking.