So, as I've said, heating prices will be nuts this winter. Commenter stomv has now twice submitted excellent lists of suggestions for how to protect yourself from the impact, so I'm “promoting” his suggestions from the comments section. I hope you find them useful.
… There are a tremendous number of things you can do now to lower your heating bill later. $200 and a trip to Home Depot can get you quite a bit, including:
- A hot water heater blanket, so that you aren't spending so much money re-heating hot water. While you're installing it, be sure to turn your water heater down to 120 degrees. Anything less than that and you might get bacteria. Anything more and you're likely wasting it.
- A few cans of Great Stuff ™ or other foam insulation in a can. Unscrew all of your electrical switch and outlet covers on exterior walls of your home, and spray this stuff inside the wall but not in the electrical box.This is also great for gaps in the wall near windows and doors. Prepare all areas first, and be prepared to use an entire can at a time as the foam hardens inside the application tube, making the remaining foam in the can inaccessible.
- Storm doors cut down on wind quite a bit.
- Take stockings, and fill them with newspaper. Make it arts and crafty if you like. Use them at the foot of your doors to keep drafts out.
- Buy a sweater or two, but not at Home Depot 🙂 .
- Make sure that the felt/foam around the sides and bottom of your door are intact and functional. If not, pick up some doorsweeps, etc. and install them.
- Take your A/C out of the window during the winter. If you absolutely cannot, do your best to insulate around it, etc.
- Get a programmable thermostat. There's no reason to heat the house all day while your at work, nor is there reason to keep the house as warm at 3am as you need it at 8pm. So, a programmable thermostat can do wonders to lower your heating bill while keeping the house sufficiently warm at all times.
- If you can afford it, upgrading your windows is a bonus.
- It's too late for this year, but evergreen trees and shrubs planted to protect the north, and to a lesser extent east and west, from wind can reduce the cold drafts quite a bit. Fences can also help.
- If you have wooden sashes with locks, make sure that all your windows can be locked closed. If not, buy the window locks for about $1.50 eachto ensure that your window remains completely closed all winter.
- That plastic wrap-esque stuff you can put over your windows with the help of a hair dryer makes a huge difference. You wouldn't think so, but it really does. Put it up when it starts to get cold outside.
- If you have the ability to control heat within different rooms of your house, don't heat rooms you aren't using soon.
To also save electricity…
- switch to CF bulbs. These are the kind with the spirally glass. They're a bit more expensive, but there are often rebate programs, and you'll save money in the long run. Plus, they have lifetimes 6-12 times longer than incadescent.
- Keep your dryer lint trap clean.
- Make sure there is a gap between your refrigerator and your stove, and make sure the gasket (plastic/rubber on the door) is sealing the cold in. Also, pulling your fridge an inch away from the wall will help, as will making sure that the coils in back aren't caked in dust.
- Turn off the lights. Seriously.
- Run the dishwasher only when full. Same goes for laundry. Try to avoid using hot water if warm or cold will get the job done.
Implementing some or all of these low cost features could easily shave 10% – 20% off your heating bills. Of course, new windows will help even more, but they are quite expensive. Will it be enough to offset the huge increase in heating costs? Probably not. Will it help considerably? You bet.
Don't wait until you see your November or December heating bill to react. Get stuff ready now. You'll save a bunch of money later, albeit a bit each day and not all at once.
Many utilities will come to your home and do a free energy audit. Call up your energy suppliers and ask them. They'll find ways to save you money. I suggest you take them up on the offer.