Heating bills are substantial—and can also be a surprise for new homeowners who wouldn’t have paid for utilities before. There’s no getting around this expense, but there are ways to reduce it. Here are just 10 ways you can lower your heating bill.
Beef up insulation.
You can hire a professional to blow cellulose into wall cavities, but with protective goggles and clothing, a novice can lay bats of fibreglass in exposed ceiling joists, crawl spaces and attics.
Service your equipment.
A well-running machine is an efficient machine, so extended warranties and annual checkup plans are a good investment for furnaces, boilers and hot water tanks.
Replace furnace filters every few months (more if you own pets or have done extensive renovations). Examine your duct work for gaps: 20-40% of heating energy can be lost through holes here
If an equipment upgrade is in your future, Natural Resources Canada has a searchable list of Energy Star certified heating appliances that will help reduce heating costs.
Deal with doors and windows.
Grab a caulking gun and go around windows from the inside and outside filling gaps. Add storm windows on the outside, as well as cellophane window film inside. This short video shows you how.
External wood doors have no insulating value. Fiberglass versions are energy efficient, but a less expensive option is to apply weather stripping and a “door sweep”: self-adhesive or screw-in pieces that, when placed along the bottom of the door, prevent drafts.
Check the chimney.
If the flue and damper aren’t working, that’s a huge hole bringing cold air into the house and stealing cash out of your pocket.
Manage your water.
If you stave off winter chill with a long steam or soak, it’ll cost you. Heating water can account for more than 10% of utility bills so make sure your tank is hyper efficient.
If you’re in the market for a new one, a “water-on-demand” version costs more upfront, but won’t heat stored water, which means lower heating bills.
For standing tanks, buy a tank blanket (available at most hardware stores). It takes minutes to apply and could save 4-9% on heating costs.
Many water pipes in the basement are exposed—wrap them in pre-cut foam insulation strips to trap heat.
Install a programmable thermostat.
They allow you to set different temperatures for different times. Keeping it lower while you’re at the office or out of the house will reduce your heating bill.
Add vents to radiators.
Vents allow you to control the heat coming out of each radiator so you can keep some spaces cooler than others. For more on managing hot water and steam systems, see Consumers Report.
Seal access points.
Duct work, plumbing for garden hoses, and holes for cable wires all let cold air into your home. Find them and fill them with spray foam.
Electrical outlets on outside walls let cold air in, too. Wall plate insulators are cheap, widely available and easy to install. (Remove the wall plate, insert the pre-cut foam insulator backer, and replace the wall plate. Done.)
Rearrange your furniture.
Watch out for vents and radiators when placing bookcases, sofas and chairs. That might seem obvious, but you need clearance around these heat sources to maximize their efficiency. Don’t butt furniture up close to them.
Choose window coverings carefully.
Hang thick ones—many off-the-shelf panels come with an insulating layer—and keep them closed after dusk.
Use ceiling fans.
They’re not just for summer. Most come with a reverse setting that pushes hot air down, warming up the room.