10 Inexpensive Ways to Slash Your Winter Heating Bills

by Ryan Guina

snow-house.jpg Winter heating bills are never fun to pay. But when faced with the choice of paying the bill or shivering all winter, I would rather just pay up! However, that doesn’t mean I shouldn’t do everything in my power to lower the sticker shock that comes in the mail every month.

Inexpensive ways to save on heating bills

  1. Use a programmable thermostat. A programmable thermostat can help you save 10-20% on your energy bill year round. Program your heater to come on right before you wake up, cool down when you leave for work, warm up when you return from work, and go down again right before you go to bed. How much will it save you? You can save 1% off your heating bill for every degree you lower your thermostat over an 8 hour period. Many people can save enough money with their first month’s use to pay for the thermostat. Cost: $30 and up. Savings: 10-20% of your monthly energy bill.
  2. Change air filters. Clean air filters permit a better flow of air through your heating system, allowing hot air to more easily flow through the vents and into your rooms. You also reduce the strain on your furnace, which can extend its life. Change your air filter monthly, or whenever it is dirty. Bonus benefit – cleaner, healthier air! Cost: $2-10.
  3. Seal the leaks in your house. Your house leaks hot air! But if you seal most of these leaks, you can save between 10-20% on your heating bill this winter. To detect leaks, wait until it is cold outside; you will probably need at least a 30 degree difference in the indoor/outdoor temperatures to notice the difference. Common areas to find leaks include around doors, windows, near the attic, where wires and cables enter your house, and around electrical outlets. Seal gaps around any pipes, wires, vents or other openings with caulk or weather stripping. Cost: $5 and up. Savings: 10-20% of your heating bill.
  4. Add insulation to your house. Insulation helps keep the hot air in and the cold air out. This can not only save you money, but it can also be a tax deductible home improvement which will give you an even better return for your investment! Basement insulation is often overlooked and will help keep your house warmer during winter months. Cost: Depends on how much and which type of insulation. Savings: Depends on how much and which type of insulation and whether or not it is tax deductible.
  5. Seal heating ducts. – Most ducts have small leaks that allow your heated air to slowly escape. You can prevent this with a roll of metallic tape for about $10 (don’t use duct tape – it degrades over time!). You can also use a liquid or aerosol based sealant, which sometimes works better than tape, but is messier. Pay special attention to sections of ducting with kinks, bends, breaks, and disconnections. Cost: $10 and up.
  6. Insulate heating ducts: You can lose up to 60% of your heated air before it reaches the outlet if you have non-insulated ducts that travel through unheated spaces such as the attic or basement. Special duct insulation can help you retain heat and energy and save a lot of money over the long term. This is a great idea if you will be living in your house for a few years. Cost: $10 and up. Savings: 10% of your energy bill or more.
  7. Use space heaters. At night we turn the heat down to 55 in the house and use a space heater in our bedroom. This allows us to only heat the space we need. Be careful when using space heaters – keep them clear of walls and flammable objects. You should also exercise caution when using them around children. Cost: $15-$35
  8. Humidifiers . Using a humidifier can reduce your heating costs because moist air retains heat better than dry air. There are other benefits to using a humidifier as well: they reduce static electricity (and annoying winter time shocks!), dry skin, and make it easier to breathe. Cost: $30 and up.
  9. Air Vent Booster. An air-vent booster is a fan you install over your vent that works by drawing additional air into a room that is always way too hot or cold. I recently installed one in our “problem room,” and the results have been quite good. It helps lower our utility bills and saves a large amount of energy. The model I have is the AirFlow Breeze, which costs about $50. Cost: $40 and up.
  10. Install plastic window treatments. Installing heavy duty clear plastic window treatments can reduce the amount of heat loss through your windows. This is a great idea if your windows are single pane windows. You can save up to 10% of your heating costs by installing these. Cost: $5 and up.

Of course, if you do all of these, you won’t be able to reduce your heating bill to nothing! There is a law of diminishing returns that must come into play somewhere. But, most of these are inexpensive and easy enough for just about anyone to do. Not only do they save a lot of money, but they reduce your energy usage which is great for the environment.

All facts were taken from the US Department of Energy Website. For more ways to save on your heating bill, check out this article: Slash Your Winter Heating Bills – 7 Free Ways to Save Big This Winter.

photo credit: jodocusd.

Published or updated February 26, 2011.
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{ 8 comments… read them below or add one }

1 The Dividend Guy

This one probably does not apply to just winter, but adding an insulating blanket to your water heater can save some money. They are typically located in cold and damp basements so any type of covering can help.

Good tips.

The Dividend Guy


2 Ryan

Great tip, DG! To be honest, many of these tips also apply for saving money on air conditioning – sealing leaks, improving ducts, and adding insulation. Doing things to save money year round just means a greater return on investment. 🙂


3 used vans girl

We have just had our cavity wall insulated and extra insulation placed in the loft. Its made a huge difference the house is much warmer and the heat seems to stays in the house for much longer, when the heating has been turned off. I have not considered some of your ten points though so thanks will try them.


4 Ryan

Hi Used Vans Girl,

Awesome! Insulation can make a huge difference in energy consumption – in the winter and the summer. I hope some of the other tips will help you save money as well. 🙂


5 J.C. Carvill

Similar to people are starting to get themself smaller and fuel efficient vehicles or start taking busses whenever possible, moving to an apartment with integrated heating system or moving to smaller house with less & smaller rooms can also be breakthrough idea for saving.


6 Joseph

I have a power vent gas hot water heater. I recently put a timer (15 amp) on the power vent to keep it turned off from 9p until 430a. I spoke to a plumber who advised that is is okay because the unit needs the power vent operating before any gas flows or the unit becomes active. In addition I have the tank and pipes all insulated to help keep the heat longer inside. Finally, I turned the temperature of the heater down to the 115 degree range.


7 Bob Turcotte

Joseph, how did you connect the timer? Did you use a commercially available plug-though timer or did you have to hard-wire it?



8 Billy Surf Martin

Thanks for the great tips (and this blog)! We think air vent boosters are GREAT!


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