Here are the Top Ways to Save Money on Your Heating Bills This Winter

Front view of falling snow with home during rare storm in Pacific Northwest of United States

Here in Columbus, Ohio, heating bills account for about 40 percent of the average household’s yearly energy budget. With utility rates on the rise, many Ohio homeowners are searching for ways to heat their homes more affordably this winter.

While upgrading an older system to a new high efficiency furnace or switching to a more affordable energy source for heating can generate substantial savings, these upgrades aren’t in everyone’s budget this season. Fortunately, you don’t need to save up thousands of dollars for home upgrades before you can start to reduce energy consumption and heat your home for a lower cost. Minor home improvements and new habits can help you realize the savings you seek when you open your next heating bill.

Buckeye Heating & Cooling shares quick and affordable ways Columbus area homeowners can reduce household heating costs each month. Learn how to make your home more energy efficient while you keep your whole family comfortable throughout our short, yet bitterly cold winters.

Average Heating Bills in Ohio

Fortunately for Columbus residents, Ohio is one of the states where energy costs are the lowest. Our state ranks 37th in the nation, with lower energy expenses than most other states. However, your heating budget will vary by the type of energy used to power your home’s heating system.

  • 65 percent of Ohio homes are heated using natural gas
  • 7 percent of Ohio homes are heated by electric equipment
  • 4 percent of Ohio homes use propane for heating
  • 2 percent of homes in Ohio are heated using fuel oil

The type of heater installed in your home and the type of energy used to power it makes a big difference when it comes to annual heating expenses. Here are the average yearly heating costs for different types of heating systems:

  • Gas furnace 97% AFUE: $453
  • Gas furnace 80% AFUE: $601
  • Propane furnace 97% AFUE: $737
  • Propane furnace 80% AFUE: $956
  • Oil furnace 87% AFUE: $826
  • Oil furnace 80% AFUE: $896
  • Electric heat pump 7 HSPF: $1,046
  • Electrical resistance heating: $1,818

In Ohio, the average monthly electric bill is $115; the average natural gas bill is $50 per month. While other appliances in the home can use the same fuel source and contribute to your bill, the home’s heating system typically consumes the lion’s share of total energy consumption.

Ways to Save on Your Heating Bills

If you want to reduce your heating expenses this winter, there are many home improvement projects and home maintenance tasks you can do to limit energy consumption and waste by your heating system and the house in general. There are also actions your household members can practice that will help keep them comfortable while using the home’s heating system less. With a combination of the suggestions below, you can stay cozy this winter and save money.

HVAC-Related Suggestions to Cut Heating Costs

Minor upgrades, regular maintenance, and altering usage of your home’s heating system can generate great savings when it comes to your heating bills this year.

1. Regular Air Filter Changes

Your forced air furnace or heat pump requires a clean filter to operate at its most energy efficient levels. Because of the cold weather, it’s not uncommon for filters to clog at a faster rate over the winter than they do during the fall or spring – this is because the home’s HVAC system is running more frequently this time of year. To ensure your furnace or heat pump always has unrestricted airflow where the filter is concerned, check your system’s filter once per month and replace it as needed.

2. Open Vents and Registers

You may have heard that closing vents in unused spaces will help you save on heating costs – this is a myth, so open all vents throughout your house now! Your HVAC system was designed to deliver a precise amount of warm air across the entire space, and limiting airflow by closing off vents and registers can cause damage to your ducts and heating equipment, increasing energy waste. Open louvers on all vent covers, remove obstructing rugs, furniture, and other items, and make sure return air vents are not blocked as well.

3. Seal Ducts

Duct leaks waste 20 to 30 percent of heating energy in the average American home. Heat from your heating system escapes ducts through leaks, exiting in spaces other than your living areas. At the same time, cold air from these spots is able to enter the duct system and chill the air moving to your rooms. Inspect ductwork for disconnections, loose joints, and visible damage. Check flexible ductwork for damage and kinks. Any leaks should be sealed. If you choose to seal ducts yourself, be sure to use mastic or foil tape where appropriate – contrary to popular belief, duct tape isn’t for your ducts! Duct sealing is much more efficient when professional services are used. HVAC pros use special methods to seal leaks from within the ducts, making sure all hidden leaks are closed throughout the system.

4. Insulate Ducts

The metal ductwork can become quite cold as it typically sits in spaces where there isn’t heat and insulation may lack. Insulating ducts prevents heat loss as heated air makes contact with cold metal. By creating a barrier around the duct material, air stays warmer and less heat energy is lost in distribution.

5. Install a New Thermostat

If you don’t have a programmable or smart thermostat at home, now is the perfect time to make this upgrade. These types of thermostats make temperature adjustments throughout the day practically effortless, so you can maximize energy savings around your household’s schedule. Talk to your HVAC professional about the right new thermostat for your family and HVAC system and have your new thermostat professionally installed to guarantee proper operation and energy savings.

6. Adjust Your Thermostat Settings

Are you using efficient temperature settings throughout the day? Over the winter, set your thermostat for 68 degrees during times when your family is at home and active. Overnight or while the family is away, set back temperatures by 10 degrees – 10-degree setbacks over 8 or more hours each day can lower heating bills by 10 percent for the year!

7. Clean Heating Equipment

If your home is heated using baseboard units or radiators, make sure this equipment is cleaned regularly. Dirt and dust buildup reduces their heating efficiency, insulating the equipment so it cannot fully radiate heat energy into the space.

8. Clean Outdoor Heat Pump

If your home is heated with a heat pump system, make sure to keep the exterior unit cleaned throughout the season. Debris, vegetation, even items stored up against the unit can restrict airflow and cause the system to consume more energy as it runs. Regularly remove debris, keep at least two feet of clear space on every side of the unit, and remove heavy snow or ice accumulation after winter storms.

9. Get a Heating Tune Up

Schedule a professional tune up for your heating system this year. This service allows your heating unit to operate at its most efficient throughout the winter season, while also limiting the possibility of breakdowns. Furnaces and boilers should be tuned up once per year while heat pumps require two tune ups as they operate year-round.

10. Use a Humidifier

Winter air is notoriously dry, which can also make bodies feel colder. Using a whole home humidifier increases the indoor air’s moisture content so your body can better hold heat close. With properly balanced indoor humidity, many households feel comfortable even when the thermostat is turned down a few degrees lower than normal.

11. Use Exhaust Fans Sparingly

Exhaust fans are used in bathrooms and kitchens to remove moisture and heat. This time of year, it’s helpful to retain some of the heat and moisture produced by activities such as showering, doing laundry, and cooking. Use the exhaust fan only while performing an activity that creates moisture and turn it off once you’re done – try not to run these fans any more than 20 minutes at a time, max. Limit shower times and crack doors to alleviate moisture buildup indoors without running exhaust fans as much.

Home Improvement Projects That Save Energy

Home improvements don’t have to be extensive or costly to lower your heating expenses. Here are some projects that are relatively easy and more affordable than others that will help your home stay warm for less this winter.

1. Seal Air Leaks

Drafts throughout the house can cause your living areas to lose heat and allow cold, outdoor air to enter your living spaces – this forces your heating system to use more energy and run longer to keep indoor areas at a comfortable temperature. Seal air leaks using appropriate caulking or weatherstripping products, and target common locations such as around windows and doors, exterior wall penetrations, corners, chimney flashings, attic access doors, attic knee walls, and other spots.

2. Add More Insulation

Many homes, especially older ones, lack enough insulation to meet modern requirements. If your attic, basement, or crawlspace lacks insulation, adding enough to reach today’s minimum R-values or exceed them will help your home better retain heat and block out the cold. Installing insulation batting, foam boards, or blown-in insulation is relatively affordable and can pay for itself in a short period of time thanks to the energy savings achieved.

3. Cover Your Windows

Windows are a great source of heat loss, with warm air leaking around frames and panes, and losing heat as it comes into contact with chilly glass. Install plastic sheeting to seal off windows and prevent drafts as well as insulate the areas around your windows from heat loss.

4. Add Insulation to Outlets

Uninsulated outlets are a common point of heat loss that often goes unnoticed. These holes in the wall allow heated air to leak into wall cavities and let in cold air from these spaces. Insulating foam gaskets for outlets and switch covers are available at home improvement stores and can quickly and easily be positioned behind the plate. Caulk can be used to seal gaps around the outlet or switch box and the surrounding wall space.

5. Fireplace Care

If you use your fireplace throughout the winter, make sure the damper fits snugly against the chimney walls so heat isn’t lost throughout the day. The damper can be sealed to eliminate this loss. If you do not use the fireplace, the chimney can be plugged and sealed to permanently end heat loss through this avenue.

6. Install Windbreaks

Even your landscaping can impact your home heating costs! Use evergreens and shrubs to block winter winds and limit windchill around your house to keep it warmer this winter.

New Habits to Lower Heating Costs

Beyond physical alterations for your home, there are many things you and your family can do throughout the winter season to save energy and reduce heating expenses.

1. Use Window Coverings Correctly

Take advantage of solar energy during daylight hours to help warm your living spaces. Open curtains and window coverings at dawn and close them at dusk or once the room is out of direct sunlight. At night, a closed window covering will also help insulate the space against heat loss.

2. Spot Heat as Needed

When one area is a little cold and in need of more heat, don’t turn up the thermostat to add heat across the entire house! This wastes energy by increasing temperatures across a large area. Instead, use an energy efficient space heater in the target space to add heat as needed. Be sure to practice safety measures whenever space heaters are in use.

3. Add Layers

Keep the body warmer by first adding layers instead of increasing temperatures right away. Add a sweater or put an extra blanket on the bed and see how your body reacts before making thermostat adjustments. An extra layer or two may keep you comfortable without the use of your heating system.

4. Adjust Fireplace Dampers Properly

Fireplace dampers should be opened whenever fuel is burning within the hearth for safe operation. Once the fire is fully extinguished, close the damper so heat from the home isn’t lost through the chimney. For gas fireplaces, turn off standing pilot lights to conserve energy between uses.

5. Adjust Hot Water Temperature

Lower the water heater’s thermostat to save energy on water heating in addition to space heating. Most households find a temperature of 120 degrees perfectly comfortable, but many water heaters use a default setting of 140 degrees. Lowering the temperature of your hot water limits standby heat losses between uses.

6. Use Ceiling Fans

Switch ceiling fans to spin clockwise over the winter and use them whenever a room is occupied. This motion takes warm air gathered at the ceiling and sends it back down to the spaces where people sit. Whenever a room is empty, turn off the fan – this effect is only helpful when people are present to benefit, and energy is wasted running fans in unoccupied spaces.

Buckeye Heating & Cooling Makes Heating Your Home More Affordable

The heating professionals of Buckeye Heating & Cooling offer many services and solutions that can make your home more comfortable this winter and help you lower your heating expenses. From new system installation to duct sealing and furnace maintenance, let us help! Contact us today to learn more.

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