The 2 Things Everyone should do to Lower Heating Costs this Winter

Fall is my favorite time of year. Michigan’s fall climate brings vivid changing colors, crisp cool mornings, and a reprieve from the muggy-swamp-ass-humid summer months. That’s “Pure Michigan”. But one thing I don’t love is the ensuing cost of heating a home.

Over the years I’ve done a number of things to mitigate the cost of home heating:

  • sealed off leaks around doors and windows
  • repaired cracks and gaps in the brick work mortar on my home’s exterior
  • shut off a room we don’t use and closed the register
  • sealed my ducts (tip: use aluminum tape, not “duct” tape) and basement registers
  • turned down the temperature on my water heater
  • installed a low flow showerhead (this is a surprisingly effective one, as using less hot water saves a lot on your heating bill. Water heaters account for 20% of all home energy use).
  • dramatically increased my attic insulation

I’m sure all of these tactics have helped, as I’ve seen my natural gas usage has declined with each implementation.

But if there were just two things I’d recommend EVERYONE do immediately before anything else, it would be to:

  1. Buy a programmable digital thermostat.
  2. Program it effectively.

lower heating costs

Programmable Digital Thermostats are the Best way to Cut your Heating Bills

The Nest Smart Programmable Thermostat (with wifi) (highlighted on my money savings products page) is one of the top selling, highest rated, and most feature-rich thermostats out there. These types of thermostats provide a huge convenience factor in that you don’t have to mess with the thermostat every time you go to bed, wake up, go to work, or get back from work. And you can monitor and change temperature in your home if you are traveling.

They are super easy to install on your own – it took me less than 20 minutes and I’m no Mike Holmes. It’s been estimated that for each degree you lower your thermostat, you can expect to save 3% on your heating costs.

I’ve calculated that installing and programming my thermostat has saved me about 20% on my heating costs. According to Energy Star, installing an Energy Star programmable digital thermostat can cut your heating and cooling costs by $180 per year. If you purchase a $190 device (seems to be about the average), that will break even around the end of the first year and nothing but sweet, pure savings after that.

But how does one program a thermostat effectively, you may ask…

What Temperature should you Set your Programmable Thermostat to Efficiently Save Money without Freezing?

There’s a great deal of personal comfort that factors into this question – and you may need to step outside your normal comfort zone just a bit. Our bodies tend to adjust and get used to certain temperatures due to always having it set at the same temperature year-round.

I like layering up in the winter, it makes me feel cozy. I also like a warm comforter and cold while sleeping. I have a low tolerance for being too warm while sleeping. And I’ve built up a tolerance for cooler temperatures while awake.

Here’s how I have programmed my thermostat:

1. Weekends, before work, and after work:

At times when I am awake and at home, I have set the thermostat to a balmy 64 degrees Fahrenheit.

2. Sleeping hours, at work, vacation:

When at work and during sleeping hours, I have programmed the thermostat to 60 degrees F. I probably would have lowered it to 55 degrees if not for the fact that I have pets and I don’t want them to get hypothermic.

You don’t want to ever go below 40 degrees, even when on vacation because your pipes might freeze and burst and you’d lose your savings and feel like an idiot. Remember that your basement (where most of your pipes are located) is usually 5-10 degrees cooler than the floor above it, where the thermostat is usually housed.

Some (just about every guest we have over) may think these levels are extreme, but I’m used to them and find them very comfortable.

Lower Heating Cost Discussion:

  • Are you using a programmable thermostat?
  • What is your waking/sleeping temperature set for in the winter months?
  • What other ways are you saving money on heating costs?

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