Tuesday, December 1, 2009

How to Save On Your Heating Bill

Oil heat is included in our rent, but we don't like to take advantage of that situation. When we lived in our old apartment, oil heat was included there. We lived on the third floor, the top level, and never touched our thermostat from where the landlord had set it. Some mornings were a little chilly, but we were never truly cold. Heat rose from the other apartments and we were all set. We try to conserve here, too, even though it is paid for.


God gave us brains, and using them glorifies him.

My husband always says, "It's a hundred-year-old technology. You don't see people going around with a Victrola. So why are we still using the same basic car engine?" We know how to do this another way. The auto industry is a little further behind, but we can heat our homes in a myriad of other ways.

Oil won't last forever.

We know it won't. We know we have a only a few decades left of oil, yet our consumption seems to be increasing. Everyone else says they find this crazy, but if everyone agreed, why isn't our oil consumption decreasing?

I hate government regulations.

If I use too much heat on my landlord's dime, he may raise the rent. If we all use too much oil, the government may be forced to ration it. This wouldn't effect my family much. Our family won't be using more than it's allotment any time soon. It's just something we don't want to happen.
Can't we be responsible if we're not being forced to?

Some wars do not need to happen.

If oil were not so precious a commodity, the Middle East would be a less volatile region. We as a nation would not so readily step into Middle Eastern affairs, often messing things up further, if there were not oil interests.


Last fall, the landlord replaced some windows. One window in the kitchen was great. The other two were still horrible. We got curtains with a thermal lining and kept the windows covered all the time. It let in less light, but the kitchen wasn't that cold. This fall, the non-efficient kitchen windows were replaced as well.

Our door really should be replaced. It is drafty up top, and as far as I know, there aren't door jams for the top of the door. Again, we put up a thermal curtain that we close when we are home, covering the door completely.

The boys' room has a window that was an original when the house was built. The view from their window is into the hallway, so I wasn't too fond of that window to begin with. I hung two heavy floor rugs onto the wall. I leave them there all year long as a decorative element.

Besides home improvement techniques, most other heating options are about keeping your body warm. Consider the difference between the crock pot and the oven. The oven heats a large empty space around the item it is cooking. The crock pot heats very little space, but only heats a small space directly around the food cooking. If we keep our bodies warm, we don't have to keep the air around us as warm.

Starting in the fall, I wear slippers. Some may not have appreciated it when Jimmy Carter told the nation to put on another sweater, but it was sound advice. We have a blanket on our couch and will put on another layer of clothing before turning to the thermostat. All the kids wear at least as many layers as I do. Changing the thermostat is our last resort in keeping us warm, not out first.

What other ways do you reduce heating
costs and consumption?


Anonymous said...

Emily, you could try some things for the front door. You can get a roll of thin foam that has an adhesive side for around the inside of the door. You can find it in the home insulating area at Wal Mart, or Home Depot, I have even seen some at the Dollar Store here (Ontario).

Clisby said...

I haven't done this in awhile, because (a) I'm kind of lazy; and (b) Charleston, SC, just doesn't get that cold - but when I lived in the northern part of the state I used to put plastic over my windows in the winter. This is the really heavy plastic that's used to cover the ground in crawl spaces, etc. - you stretch it over the window frame and staple it in place. It keeps out drafts, and if the window gets sun, there's a greenhouse effect. Of course plastic isn't as environmentally friendly as rugs and blankets. The main thing we do now is to keep the heat down - I set the thermostat at 65-68 during the day and 55 at night. I'm astounded at how warm some people keep their houses - and many public buildings are just unbearable. For example, you'd think a place like the library would take into consideration that people coming in during the winter are fairly warmly dressed and TURN. THE. DANG. HEAT. DOWN. But no. It's the same with air conditioning - here, so many public buildings are just *freezing* in the summer. I'm not advocating turning it off - I'd willingly scrap heat if it meant I could keep my AC - but some of the places must be set below 70 degrees. Our house is set to 80 degrees in the summer. When it's 95 degrees or higher outside, that's plenty of difference to make you feel nice and cool.

On the Eaves said...

We are a bit spoiled being able to have it 90 degrees in the house when it is 20 degrees outside, but I have found the extreme difference in temperature causes much more illness in my home. I do use my heater, but only when necessary and I keep it at a reasonable temperature.

Cate said...

I make and wear wool socks and fingerless mittens in the winter. I can tuck my fingers into the mitten if I'm sitting around or reading or doing something that doesn't require dexterity.

I find if my feet and hands are warm, I'm a lot more comfortable at a lower temperature. I realize this isn't true for everyone, but it helps me a lot both inside and old.

I throw an extra blanket or two on the bed so even if I need the heat during the day, I can compensate at night and not have to raise the temperature. Though it makes getting up in the cold morning extremely difficult for the first few minutes.

Anonymous said...

Your argument about the absurdity of using 'hundred year old technology' seems a contradiction to your spouting that KJV is superior over modern translations. You are a sheeple and have no original thoughts or ideas. Also, the Middle East would still be a volatile region due to its religious conflict, regardless of oil. I am proud to be part of a nation that steps in to try to put an end to tyranny and genocide.

mary bailey said...

Socks make all the difference in the world to me! Since I currently am borrowing my 10yo son's socks, I'm going to ask Santa for some cute, fuzzy, colorful, *warm* socks all for myself!

Early Modern Mom said...

We're in Houston, so our problem is more about staying cool in August than warm in December or January; however, it does occasionally get chili.

I'm with Cate though. I think people really need to get back in touch with natural animal fibers. Since I started knitting my own socks from wool, I find that I never get icy, numb toes anymore. Same for my fingers and mittens/gloves.

Recently during a band trip, I wore a merino/possum fur blend sweater that I'd nearly finished knitting because I forgot my jacket. I felt warmer in that (relatively thin) sweater than most of the other parents looked in their layers of sweatshirts and coats. A couple of layers of wool can go a long, long way.

Farwood said...

My old two bedroom apartment had a heater in the living room. I set up my bedroom in half of it and left the other as a sitting/computer space. I used spring rods and old curtains to keep heat from going in the unused rooms. I would open the curtain if I was using the oven to let the extra heat into the living area. At night I drew the set of curtains that divided my bedroom from my sitting area so there would be a smaller area to heat.
I kept my cat's litter box in one of the bedrooms which doubled as a storage space. She could easily slip under the curtain and the cold helped prevent smells.
I also keep an old towel by the door to block the draft that comes in under it.

Anonymous said...

We have started heating our home with wood. We still have a furnace, but rarely use it anymore. We have never had to cut any trees for our wood. We live in a rural area where trees are constantly being cleared for farming and such(plus we have had several ice storms the past few winters that have provided plenty of fallen trees!).

We also recently replaced all of the windows in our home. Wow! What a difference! So far this fall/winter we haven't needed much heat because our house stays warm enough on it's own!

Emily said...

I'm in total agreement with keeping your feet warm. I feel real cozy when my feet are warm in socks socks and slippers.

Anon, I agree that the Middle East would still be volatile, which is why I said "less volatile." Your nation has let atrocities and genocides happen without stepping in; think Sudan and Chile. I do use different standards to judge the word of God and technology, as they are vastly different, and I don't consider that a contradiction.

Anonymous said...

Since most of our body heat escapes through our head and feet, I double or triple layer socks and wear a hat. I love layers too... I have been known to wear 5-6 shirts and tights and long socks under my jeans to keep warm during the coldest days of winter. I try to keep moving to stay warm, but if I'm desperate I'll go in our smallest bedroom and turn the heat up just in that room.

Jennifer said...

As someone from the Houston area I'm fairly certain Early Modern Mom can identify with what Clisby mentioned: when it does get cold, stores turn the heat WAY up. When I'm out and about, I'm wearing sweaters and coats and preparing for all my outside time! Then what, I'm supposed to duck into Target and de-coat/scarf/hat-ify? What, am I supposed to carry that stuff all around the store? I'm sure the employees can wear long sleeves.

Martha said...

I lost my job in August and decided to forgo looking for a new job and stay home full time. When I was employed we turned the heat down to about 62 degrees during the day and turned it up to about 66 degrees in the evening. We have boiler heat and the radiators hold the heat more and keep the rooms at an even temp. I am determined to keep the thermostat at 62 during the day. Our Victorian cottage type house was built in the 1880's and has the original windows and doors. We have done the best we can to seal the cracks but it does come down to wearing extra layers of clothing during the day, opening the curtains when the sun is shining and using common sense. In the fall we received a letter from our utility company letting us know that our budget billing per month was going down due to our conservation.

We have a stove and use it. This winter when it is a very cold day I plan on making that a baking day as the oven will bake my bread and heat up some of the downstairs.

We keep a space heater int he bathroom to turn on just to take the chill off and then turn it off (usually takes about 1 minute). There are more blankets on the bed. We have an electric blanket that we turn on prior to going to bed and then turn off when we get in it.

Also we have transitioned from using the old fashioned light bulbs to energy saving light bulbs.

All in all it has become a game to me to see what it takes to be somewhat comfortable at the lowest thermostat setting and in the alternative, in the summer to have the thermostat set at a higher setting and be comfortable.

Kudos to you, Emily, for not taking advantage of your landlord.

crabcakes said...


I agree about warming the body first but as a homeowner, at some point you really do have to turn up the heat. For instance,

My pipes. Freezing and cracking and leaking pipes can be a huge resource waster and a huge financial expense. In the dead of winter, I really do have to keep my home thermostat at at least 58-60 to protect my pipes.

My walls and ceiling. We were stubborn this year and didn't turn our heat on until a couple of weeks ago. Even during that spurt of 30 degree weather for a few days. Our payment for that was a crack in our plaster wall upstairs and condensation upstairs that exacerbated a leaking problem from our roof. It would have been avoided had we turned our heat on.

I absolutely agree about not blasting the heat and turning it on only when necessary. And my heat isn't normally set higher than about 60 or so. But when it needs to go on, it goes on.

Right now we are stuck with oil heat. The gas company refuses to run a line in our area and we have no fireplaces. We have one wood stove pipe but as of yet it has not been approved for hookup. We're working on that.

It sounds like your landlord sets the thermostat but if you are allowed any control of it, I would ask him what his expected minimum is to protect the structure and pipes in the house.

Rachel said...

After reading these comments, I feel kind of bad. We live in north Florida, and so far our lowest night temps have been in the 40's, and on those nights we have had the heater set at at least 68! I've always heard that southerners have thinner blood, so maybe it is true! I just know I was cold! But we do turn the heat off during the day, and we wear long sleeve shirts, cover with blankets while reading and watching t.v. I don't think as much about a high heating bill as I do a high air conditioning bill.

I do agree that we should not waste energy, and I am happy to hear that your family does not take advantage of the landlord. My brother in law is a pastor and they live in the parsonage. The church pays the electric bill. The house has 4 bedrooms, 3 baths, very large home. When we visit, the lights are on in every room. They have never trained their kids to turn off lights. It really gets to me! My husband always says that if they paid the bill themselves, you would see some changes around there!

Stacy said...

We use a wood stove as most of our heating. I have heating blankets all around the house--on beds, in the living room, on the rocker in my son's bedroom. We wear warm clothes all winter. If I get really cold I wear my down jacket at home. It looks funny, but I feel good at least. Also, one of the best things my husband ever bought me were down slippers. You should try them--warmer than any other slippers I've ever had. You can get them at sporting good stores or online at places like Campmor and Sierra Trading.

Stacy said...

I forgot to ask where you got the thermal curtains. I've been looking for some, but so far, everything I've seen seems too expensive. If anyone has good recommendations for this, I'd love to know.

Elizabeth said...

Kudos to you Emily. I have to admit that if someone else were footing our heating bill we would be a lot warmer right now!
But as it is, we live in Iowa, which gets really cold in the winter. And we usually have our heat set at 62 or 63 degrees during the day and 58 at night. We wear sweatshirts, socks, and other layers if needed and have a couple blankets on the bed.
We had an energy audit several years ago and the man was impressed by what we keep our thermostat at. He said that almost all the houses he goes to has the thermostat cranked up and the people are walking around in t-shirts and complaining about their horrendous heating bills. It's common sense really. We stay healthier and our heating bills are manageable. The highest bill we have had was $200 (which is bad!) but everyone else was complaining about $300 and $400 bills so ours was much better!

Scottish Twins said...

I second the adhesive plastic for windows. I've heard wonderful things about it and plan to use it in my kids rooms when it gets a little colder.

MollyT said...

For our first year in a fixer-upper we had no heat at all, and very old windows. We got heated mattress pads for the kids' beds. It gave them a warm cozy place to hang out and read in the evenings, more efficient than electric blankets because the heat is held in by the bedding. And we wore knit caps all the time.
Even though we now have a really nice house with in-floor heating and good thermal-paned windows, we still haven't turned the heat on this year. We build a fire in the woodburning stove and that makes our main room comfortable very quickly.

Meegs said...

Check out Home Depot or your local hardware store and you can find some relatively inexpensive weather striping made for door jams. We did the top and side of our front door, and it makes a HUGE difference in cutting our drafts.

We are lucky enough to have a programable thermostat. Its set to go to "high" (around 65) about 20 minutes before we get up, then back to "low" (around 60) for the day while we're at work, high again just before we get home, and low just before we go to bed... staying low for the night. That way we aren't wasting energy heating the house as much when we aren't home or are burrowed under blankets.

We also have heavier curtains that we use to keep the heat in.

Me said...

We caulked around the transom windows by the front door and sealed the door cracks with foam tape (you should look into that for your front door). We also have bed heaters so we can turn the heat down at night and wear compression underclothes like Under Armour except an off brand (cheaper).
If I must use the oven to bake I always leave the door open when i am done to use the heat. Also if you use a dryer you can get a conversion kit to use the heat to warm your home instead of venting that heat outside.

amulbunny said...

We live in Southern CA and it does get cool in the evening since we are about 4 miles from the ocean. We have a wall heater but we don't use it. We burn logs in our fireplace and that keeps the living room warm, and I do bake and use the oven so that warms up the front of the house.

The bedrooms have no heat, so we pile on blankets and quilts. The little house my son lives in out back has no heat so he uses lots of blankets too. Our gas bill is minimal but our electric bill is not. We've replaced all the lights with CFR's to save energy but the rates are higher in this city than the previous one we lived in.

We've gotten used to wearing sweaters and having blankets on all the couches.

Anonymous said...

This is some of the things I done, put a layer of thin sheet foam behind our electric switch and plug in plates on the outside walls....the cold comes in behind them..Home Depot has it....We also use flannel sheets and pillow cases with down comforters....warmer sweat tops and bottoms around home....we put calking around the wood trim on the windows inside too...by our back door we use a draft stopper on the floor, we live in Nebraska...

Michaela Dunn Leeper said...

I've just found your blog, and have been reading some. It is fantastic!

Clisby said...


Have you checked thrift stores for thermal-backed curtains? I've never specifically looked for that, but my favorite thrift store has tons of curtains, so that would be my first stop.

Anonymous said...

The house we bought has a pellet stove. It burns wood pellets. There is no interior by-product, everything is vented to the outside. Buying and storing pellets is a heck of a lot cheaper than our electric heat. It heats our whole home. We love it!

Organizing Mommy said...

I was raised in the Carter Administration. We handed our guests a sleeping bag when they came to visit. Those were the (cold) days!

Sabrina said...

Rachel, I am now feeling kind of bad, too!! We live in South GA, and we have had the heat on for the past several nights. At night we keep it on 68, but in the mornings when I first get up, I am so cold that I bump it up to 70 until I get going. I hate to even admit that when all of the rest of you do so well with conservation! Maybe the blood of Southerners is thinner! :)

Sarah said...

I find that nothing warms me as much as feeling pious! Whenever I feel cold, I just do something to needlessly punish myself and I instantly feel closer to God and thus, warmer.
My neighborhood thrift stores and Half Price Books also have many inexpensive books and magazines that can be used as excellent kindling for our fireplace. I find that Harry Potter and Cosmopolitan work best.

The Prudent Homemaker said...

I live in Las Vegas. I know some pople in town have been turning their heat on for a couple of months, but we have not needed to. It has stayed around 68-71ยบ in our house. Some rooms are colder than others (the rooms on the north side of the house are the coldest). We have lots of blankets on the beds. We're grateful for the nice weather; it hasn't froze yet, which is a blessing. I am interested in some of the front door ideas that were mentioned in earlier comments; it does get cold by the door.

We live in a newer house (which most are here) and we have double-paned windows, which makes a difference. We also have central heat--gas heat. Our gas bill is never real high. For us, it's the a/c bill in the summer that is high.

Baking bread heats up the house; when I'm done I let the warm air escape into the house. When I bake potatoes I fill the oven with them (about 10 pounds at a time).

Anonymous said...

What in the world??? This is pretty weird, if you ask me. Punish yourself...and that's pious? No thanks.

Rainbow Waters said...

Here in inland San Diego, our problems come in the summer. I do my best to not turn on the AC until the house hits around 82-85. It can be brutally hot to the point where open windows are just blowing in flaming hot air. It can become 90s in the house if we arent careful and its unbearable.

So thankfully, come winter we are able to turn off the thermostat all together. It doesnt get much warmer/cooler than 70 in the house during the day and around 60 at night. Sometimes I am cold but I think its mostly b/c I am so used to dressing in tanks/shorts because of San Diego weather that I dont understand the meaning of long sleeve let alone layers! LOL I am working on this and Im happy to say its now December and we havent touched the heat!!!


Clisby said...

Rachel and Sabrina might be on to something. I didn't live outside the South until I was in my 30s, but the 9 years I spent in Columbus, OH left me far more cold-tolerant and far less heat-tolerant. Even though I've been back in SC for more years than I was away, it's like the comparatively mild summers in Ohio robbed me of my ability to endure the Southern heat, but the winters there toughened me up for good.

Kaylan said...

"... inexpensive books and magazines that can be used as excellent kindling for our fireplace. I find that Harry Potter and Cosmopolitan work best."

Those are two of my favorite things to read! Since you don't believe in the freedom of speech, what other aspects of our basic American heritage do you oppose?

Clisby said...

Kaylan: Where did you get the idea Sarah opposes freedom of speech? All I could grasp from her post were that she doesn't think highly of Harry Potter or Cosmopolitan - much as I might happily toss some New Testaments on the flames. It doesn't mean I'm opposed to people reading the bible - that's none of my business.

frugalredneck said...

We bought our house almost 2 years ago, 2500 sqft 110 year old, for $5000. Needless to say it was a fixerupper. I blogged about it and posted pics on my website, This was for us the only way for us to own a house, and own it outright. Anyway, We fix up here and there, But still have no heat, It is very expensive a big chunk of money no matter which way we go. It is quite cold here in kansas, Average about 40 during the day in the winter low 20's at night. We froze last winter, Basically we held up in one room and blocked it off, and learned layering. We made a list of all the places cold came in from. I took 3 days straight and clear caulked every wood plank downstairs, caulked windows foamed here and there, insulated under the house etc. We did purchase a kerosene heater for the downstairs, But only turn on when absolutley needed and a few electric heaters here and there. Mostly we sealed this house up tighter than fort knox. We cannot believe how much this all helped. It is 36 degrees tonight. There is one electric heater on medium in the living room, aimed toward the diningroom. One heater in the baby's room on low. The baby and the 5 yr old twins are wearing footy jammies, and The older girls are on the couch with a blanket. No one is freezing by any means. The consensus in the house is it is comfortable. There are so many things you can do to seal a house up tight, and use less. So many people,(including me, a few years ago) live in a house in the summer that they put sweaters on cause the air is on so cold, and in the winter run around with nothing on cause the house is so hot from heaters. I can't believe I used to do that. I also when using the stove as soon as I turn it off, I leave it open to heat the kitchen. I also leave the dryer door open after drying to give the laundry room a little heat, Our laundry room needs to be replaced, it is basically a bad addition from previous owners. The dryer hose runs underneath it, which is just wood planks, So we fanned the hose out underneath, so off the main hose going under the house, we have small hoses running the length of the room and the heat rises up and keeps the room very warm when running. Michelle

sunnymommy said...

I saw thermal backing material in an ad for the fabric store for much cheaper than the curtains are going for. You could buy a few yards and cut and hem them yourself and just hang them up behind whatever curtains you want!

Treva said...

I moved from a warm area of VA (near the bay) to central IN. It's much colder here than what I am used to, but I am bound and determined that my thermostat will NOT go over 64*. I wear socks with house-slippers on my feet. I wear nice looking sweat pants or thick workout pants b/c they are generally warmer than jeans and come in great neutrals, like gray and black. On my top I wear a cami, a long sleeve or 3/4 sleeve t-shirt and then some type of sweater. We have a blanket and a comforter on our beds and we keep 2 throw blankets and a twin sized comforter in the living room for when we're sitting still (t.v. time mostly). My daughter uses flannel sheets, but we can't on our bed b/c of my DH's medical problems; so we use brushed cotton sheets which are warmer than standard cotton and not as warm as flannel. We run an electric space heater in the living room since that is where we spend most of our time and the laundry room, which houses the furnace, is between the bathroom and office so those 2 rooms stay decent as well. The kitchen is warm to me b/c that's where I cook and I find that moving around keeps me warm. People really shouldn't sit at their computers for too long, maybe 30 minutes, and then they should get up and do something to keep the blood flowing. I've found it helps me significantly. The bedrooms are chilly, but we only sleep in there and change clothes. The dining room is chilly, but we only use it for entertaining and when we get ready to fill it with 15 bodies it will heat up quickly and people will be grateful it's not kept too warm.

We just purchased window insulation kits for $10; we bought 2 kits. It will be enough to easily cover the bay window in DD's room, the 2 large windows in the dining room, the window in the master bedroom, and the 2 smaller windows (one each in the bathroom and kitchen). Anything left after all of that and we will use in the living room, but it's a new addition and well insulated and quite warm. Each kit also came with 6 electric socket covers to insulate those as well. The kits will be installed in the next couple of days and should make a big difference in the colder rooms.

Anonymous said...

Hi Emily
You mentioned not knowing if there was such a thing as a draft blocker for the TOP of the door. I've used those foam rubber insulating tubes that are supposed to be for insulating water pipes. They only cost about $0.15 each, and one usually enough. They're already split on one side, so they wrap pretty well around the top of the door, and squish down to seal. If it moves around or pops off you can staple it down easily. If your door is too wide, you can accomplish the same thing with a pool noodle from the dollar store. Staying warm in Canada!!

Anonymous said...

You know, you're paying for heat either way; it is included in your rent. Your landlord has calculated a flat fee for heat, which you pay montlhy, year round. What a waste to be putting out that money and not getting anything in return.

And the Middle East has been a hotbed of volititlity since LONG befocre oil became a commodity.

Anonymous said...

Paying to run an electric or kerosense space heater instead of running the furnace is false economy. You are trading your electric bill for your gas/oil bill. I'm not sure how effiecent those litter heaters are and if you are running several of them in differnt rooms just turn on the heat.

Insulating your house really is the best bet. I grew up in an old house and my bedroom was always cold. It had 2 sets of double windows and was the last room on the ciruct for our radiators. When I was at my parents during a recent cold snap I couldn't belive the differance new windows made on the tempature in the room.

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