Practical ways to control heating costs

Heating bills for residents across the Pacific Northwest, Midwest and New England will be higher as the these areas experience record temperatures below normal. Here are some tips to save money and control those heating bills whether you use electricity or natural gas to heat your home.

  1. Some States have programs that allow customers to purchase their natural gas and electricity from an energy marketer, possibly at a lower price. With the natural gas cost making up nearly 80 percent of the total heating bill, and customers using the majority of natural gas during the winter heating season, a reduction in the cost of the commodity at this time of year can have a significant impact on natural gas bills.

    Some marketers may offer fixed-price plans that reduce the monthly volatility of gas costs. Call your electric or natural gas utility and ask how you can compare the your current plan with that offered by a energy marketer.
  2. Call your electric or natural gas utility and get them to do an energy audit on your home. This will identify the really significant heat losses in your home and where to spend money.
  3. Ask your electric utility and natural gas utility to identify their peak and non-peak energy times. Use hot water during the non-peak times. If your utility has a demand side management program or advanced metering program, then sign up. A recent federal report on demand side management will help you identify where the programs are.  Don't heat the rooms in your house that are not being used. Close the heating vents, draw the drapes and close the door.
  4. If you have ceiling fans, reverse them so that the fan blows toward the ceiling. This will distribute the hot air toward the ground along the walls where it is needed.
  5. Buy a programmable thermostat and find someone who can program it for you. Find the lowest comfortable settings for your family and lower it by 10-15 degrees before bed or if you are going outside.
  6. If you have not insulated the attic, now is the time to do so. This will also help control air conditioning bills during the summer. There are green insulation alternatives as well that you can handle yourself.  
  7. Air leaks around windows can really increase heat loss. Head on over to the hardware store or home improvement center and buy weather stripping.
  8. Turn your electric or natural gas water heater to a lower setting or consider buying a new energy efficient model. have plenty of hot water. Also buy foam insulation for all exposed hot water pipes.

You may not be able to afford to any of the above recommendations. If that is the case, buy some good thermal underwear and wear it in the house. The goal here is to be comfortable. You can't expect to stay warm if you insist on wearing a T shirt and shorts.One final note---- Spring arrives on March 20th so hang in there.

See our more recent articles on energy issues.