No Need to Shiver: Easy DIY Ways to Cut Heating Costs This Winter

What if I told you there are a handful of sneaky ways you can cut the cost to heat your home that won’t require you to wear a down-filled, hooded parka 24-hours a day? Would I have your attention? Great, because that’s exactly what I have for you today.

Young woman wearing a red winter jacket with furry hood, holding her hands together on isolated background

These easy tips could cut your heating bill by 20 percent or more, and none require more than 30 minutes of work. You will need to purchase a few inexpensive supplies but all are readily available. Don’t worry—you will quickly recoup those costs in lower heating bills.

Programmable Thermostat

I’ve suggested this to you before, now I am pleading with you to get one of these amazing pieces of technology

Basic programmable

Budget models start at under $20 and are easy to install yourself. But make sure the lower-cost model you select will work with your type of heating system. Not all of them do. Then follow the instructions included to program it for the entire week—up to four settings a day—to meet your comfort needs. 

Honeywell Home Programmable Theromstat lets you set it and forget it

Our Best Inexpensive basic programmable thermostat choice, this Honeywell model, isn’t the cheapest, because it is compatible with central gas, oil or electric furnaces and AC systems as well as low-voltage systems. It is exactly what you need if going with a basic model.

If you purchase it from Amazon, it comes with 90-days of free Amazon tech support. In the event your product doesn’t work as expected, or you’d like someone to walk you through set-up, Amazon technicians will help you troubleshoot any issues you are having. To access this option, go to Your Orders and choose Get product support.

Smart thermostats

A smart thermostat allows you to adjust your home’s heat from anywhere using any of your connected smart devices. You can be laying in bed and adjust the temperature without getting out of bed. Or you can turn the heat down when you go out of town, but turn it up with your phone when you are on your way home so it is warm when you arrive.

This Emerson Sensi model is our pick for Best Inexpensive smart thermostat because it offers flexible scheduling capabilities and will send extreme temperature alerts and usage reports directly to your phone through the app, it includes free Amazon tech support (see above)—and the price is right!

Emerson Sensi Smart Thermostat

 

It’s compatible with Amazon Alexa, Google, Apple HomeKit, and Wink smart home platforms. It will look after your heating costs in ways you can only wish you were as efficient.

Replace worn weatherstripping

Open an outside door and look at that piece of “plastic molding” or strip of foam rubber that runs across the top and down both sides of doors and all the way around windows—designed to seal the air gap once closed. Is it torn, shredded, missing or otherwise not doing its job? Replace this wherever it is allowing small drafts.

Black sticky-back foam weatherstripping

Weatherstripping at any home center or online here comes with a sticky-back adhesive which makes it a cinch to install.

Door thresholds

Look under your front door and any other outside doors. See any daylight? That’s where precious warmed air is being sucked out into the cold. You may be able to adjust the threshold to close this gap. Look for four or five screws that when loosened will allow you to adjust the threshold height. You may need to replace it in order to get rid of all daylight.Aluminum door threshold replacement kit

Electrical outlets

Identify every electrical outlet box in the exterior walls of your home. Take off the outlet covers to see if the air gaps behind are all filled with insulation. Whoops. There goes more warmed air! You can fill these gaps with acrylic latex caulk. But I wouldn’t bother with that mess.

Instead, you can buy ready-made rubber gaskets online. I’ve seen them in a two-pack for about $1.50 at my home center. They’re easy to install and will help make your home airtight.

 

Plug holes

While you were looking for outlets on exterior walls, did you see any holes? Look under the kitchen sink, for example. See where the pipes go through the wall? If those areas are hot sealed fully, they too are sucking warmed air out, and that’s costing you money. You can seal these gaps with expanding foam that comes in an aerosol can at the home center.

Sealing foam to keep warm air in during winter

If you see something called an “escutcheon ring” that is up against the wall where the pipe goes through, pull that back to fill the area with foam. That ring is only decorative and doesn’t make it airtight.

Space heater

If your home is large and you’re occupying only parts of it at a time, invest in a good space heater like this Bionaire Micathermic console heater so you can turn down the thermostat to an otherwise much-too-chilly level. A typical space heater that uses 1500 watts of electricity will cost about 24 cents per hour, based on the average rate of 12 cents per kilowatt-hour, which is typical in many areas.

Bionaire micathermic console heater gray

 

Take a look at a good infrared heater that uses very little electricity, using the science of infrared rays that heat surfaces, not the surrounding air. This DR model is our pick for Best Inexpensive infrared heater.

Infrared space heater that is cheap to operate and heats objects not surrouding air

 

Plastic film on windows

Experts tell us that the surface of your windows accounts for 25 percent of the home’s heat loss. Simply covering the windows and patio doors with clear plastic film for this purpose can cut the loss significantly.

Plastic window film to increase R-value and cut heating costs

 

This heat-shrink transparent film is inexpensive. It comes in sheets that you apply yourself using a regular hair dryer to “shrink” the film right to the window. If you follow the directions carefully, the film will be nearly invisible but extremely effective. 

Fill the flue

If you have a typical wood-burning fireplace, that chimney space is a big, nasty energy thief, whenever the fireplace is not in use. Get into the habit of closing that flue solidly between uses. If you rarely use the fireplace, consider a chimney flue blocker. There are lots of styles—even a balloon, which can be reused. You just inflate it inside the chimney and it fills up the space. Deflate to use the fireplace. And if you ever forget and start a fire with it in place? It will automatically deflate.

Chimney block balloon that keeps out cold air when the firepalce is not in use

Sealing your home as tightly as possible has never been easier. It is the secret to cut heating costs and keep warm. No more shivering through winter to pay the bills! Do it now and you’ll get a big bonus come summer. It will cost less to keep it cool, too.

NEXT UP:

23 Ways to Slash Your Electricity Bill

An Amazing Way to Slash High Heating Bills

This Homemade Silver Cleaner Removes Tarnish Like Magic


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7 replies
  1. Sue in MN
    Sue in MN says:

    Humidifier! Unless you live in an energy-efficient uber-sealed home, the winter humidity in your home is probably too low. Dry air feels cooler than properly humidified air and it’s hard on skin, mucous membranes and home furnishings, Find out whether your furnace has a humidifier installed, and if so make sure it is clean and functioning and use it. Otherwise consider investing in a portable humidifier, they are sized from single-room to whole-house. Whichever you choose, keep clean and sanitized and clean or replace filters as recommended.

    Reply
  2. Canzolino Louise
    Canzolino Louise says:

    Those plastic sheets that go on windows is a waste of money. After a few hrs it came off. I live in Chicago and those glass door frames are cold. After a while nothing will stick to it. Don’t throw your money away

    Reply
    • Cathy
      Cathy says:

      I put the clear plastic sheets on my two sets of (newer) sliders and a small kitchen window every winter (live in Michigan). I use the double-thick plastic with double rows of the clear tape, not the wimpy thinner plastic. It makes a significant difference and we can’t even tell they’re there. If “over shrunk” it can pull loose here and there.

      Reply
  3. Bonnie C
    Bonnie C says:

    How to seal old windows
    That I cannot afford to replace right now? I know you have spoke briefly in the past on this topic. Please no plastic to cover windows embarrassing!

    Reply
  4. Miriam Kearney
    Miriam Kearney says:

    Great article. Can I make an unrelated comment? At the bottom of your posts you put the text “Caught yourself reading all the way?”. I just want to say that it is off-putting to read that. I read your posts because they are interesting and often useful. If it’s really not something I’m interested in I do sometimes click off. I’m not sure why your text is off-putting but I do find it that way. Simply ” found this interesting? Share with a friend” would be much friendlier I think.

    Reply

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