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High Temps, Low Costs: How to Lower Your Heating Bill In Winter

As anyone who lives in the Chicagoland area knows, the winters can be especially harsh, so as the cold season approaches it isn’t surprising that many families start to worry about how they’re going to be able to afford to pay their heating bills. Luckily, it is possible to save energy and save money while staying comfortable even on the coldest days of the year. Here are some top tips to help you reduce your heating bill and to ensure you stay cozy when the snow starts to fall.


Keep Your Heating Costs Low This Winter


Focus On Your Windows


Your windows are the source of much of the heat loss from your home, but there are a number of steps you can take to minimize heat loss and maximize the sun’s warmth. Firstly, on sunny days, always open the curtains on all of your home’s windows that face south as this will enable the sun’s rays to heat your property naturally. Of course, you must also remember to close your curtains once more as the night starts to fall as this will keep out the chill of the cold glass.


If you find that drafts are still coming through your windows, you can use a clear plastic heavy duty sheet on a frame, or alternatively, tape some clear plastic film onto the inner side of the window frames during the winter. By sealing the plastic tightly to the window frame, fewer drafts will be able to find their way into your rooms. You can also reduce heat loss by installing insulating, tight fitting shades or drapes on your windows. This will boost the energy efficiency of your home helping you to reduce your heating bill and to reduce your carbon footprint at the same time.


Make Some Temperature Adjustments


By using your thermostat properly you can slash your heating costs exponentially. If you are in the house during the day, turn down your thermostat to the lowest temperature that is still comfortable. If you are sleeping or away from home, you should turn down the thermostat to somewhere between 10 and 15 degrees for 8 hours of the day. This will cut about 10% per year off your cooling and heating bills. By investing in a programmable or smart thermostat, you can easily adjust your temperature in the most convenient way.


While nobody wants to stay bundled up in bulky coats and hats when they’re in their home, you can afford to turn your thermostat down a small amount and still be comfortable if you choose a setting between 60 and 70 degrees and keep a sweater on. Making a small sacrifice like this can cut your heating bill by up to a fifth, and that can amount to a pretty impressive saving.


Consider Investing In New Appliances



Although buying a new water heater or heating system might sound like an expensive waste of money, it’s important to consider the long term. Heating your home’s water accounts for as much as 11% of your utility bills and that means that changing your water heater for a more energy efficient one can make all the difference. If you have a traditional water tank heater, consider switching to a tankless one which only heats water as and when it‘s required to avoid the additional energy consumption of heating water which is not required.


You should also take a look at your furnace. If you have an ageing oil or gas fired furnace it’s important to be aware that their lifespan is only around 15-20 years and if your is approaching the end of its useful life it could be causing your energy bills to inflate. Replacing your older model with a new Energy Star certified unit could save you as much as 20% on your heating bills. If you’re planning to remain in your home for a few more years, making the upfront investment will pay for itself in a short time.



Find Those Leaks


Leaks and cracks around your home are the source of unwanted drafts and also contribute to your property’s overall heat loss, resulting in you having to crank up the thermostat and increase your heating bills in order to stay warm. One way to retain heat is to find any air leaks around your home and to seal the gaps to prevent warm air from escaping and cold air from getting in. Check gaps around any recessed lights, chimneys, utility pipe cut throughs and any areas behind closets and cupboards for hidden cracks and then seal them. It’s also wise to use weatherstripping or caulk to seal any air leaks around your windows and doors.


Schedule A Heating System Service


The last thing you want is to wake up on the coldest day of the year to find that your heating system has broken down. While many people think that they can save on the cost of regular maintenance when it comes to their heating system, skimping on this essential service can lead to a much more expensive bill if and when the system eventually breaks down. By arranging an annual service for your heating system you can make sure that it is working at the optimal level and that any problems have been spotted and rectified before they get out of hand and cause a major problem. An annual tune up will ensure that all the components are in good working order and that the system is functioning most economically to save you money and to keep your home toasty warm.



Keeping Your Heating System Clean


If you have a heat pump or a furnace, it’s important to always replace the filter on a monthly basis, or more frequently if necessary. Maintaining your heat pump, boiler or furnace is vital to keeping it in good running order. If you have a pellet or wood burning heater, you should always take care to clean its flue vent frequently as well as cleaning the interior of the appliance periodically with a wire brush as this will ensure your home is being heated efficiently.


Reducing Heat Loss From Fireplaces


While a fire in the grate is a cozy image, if your home has a fireplace, this can be a major source of heat loss. Warm air is drawn upwards through the chimney leaving your room cold and uncomfortable whenever there is no fire burning, so it is always important to keep the damper firmly closed. If you allow it to remain open it is similar to leave a window open, allowing warm air to escape at an alarming rate.


Whenever the fireplace is in use, you can reduce any additional heat loss by keeping the damper open in the bottom of the firebox. If your fireplace does not have dampers, you can open a window very slightly instead (no more than an inch) while also closing all of the doors which lead into the room. You can then reduce the setting of your thermostat to around 50-55 degrees Fahrenheit.


Another option for your fireplace is to install tempered glass doors as well as a heat-air exchange system. This will blow the warm air back into your room for a much more energy efficient alternative that will ensure your space stays extremely comfortable. You should also check the fireplace flue damper’s seal to ensure it is as snug as it can be to avoid drafts. Buying a grate which is made from C-shaped metal tubes will ensure that cool air from the room is drawn into the fireplace while warm air is effectively circulated back through the room.


On the other hand, if you have a fireplace but find that you never actually use it for its intended purpose it could be time to think of getting rid of it. If you plug and seal your flue, you’ll find that the room becomes a lot warmer but you won’t lose the attractive feature in your room.


Reduce The Cost Of Your Water Heating


Turning down your water heater’s temperature to “warm” or around 120 degrees Fahrenheit will make a big difference when it comes to saving energy and, as an added bonus, you’ll never need to worry about accidentally scalding yourself when washing your hands or running a bath.

Emergency Heat: The 411 on 911 Heating

Emergency Heat: What Is the Deal?

Emergency heat is basically a secondary source of heating. It is used in heating systems when the unit detects the temperature as being too low to be powered by the primary unit alone. Most heating systems use electricity, gas, hot water and oil to run. More often than not, the primary and secondary heating methods work together to warm your home effectively in the winter months.


Usually, the homeowner can just let the unit do its own thing due to the automatic switch setting on your heating device (you should check whether your own unit is automatic or manual), yet you may be still questioning whether or not you should change the heat settings on your system in extreme cold conditions or use emergency heat when your house is taking a while to heat up. We’ve broken down emergency heat and the things you should and should not be doing below.


When Should I Be Using Emergency Heat?

Many homeowners make the huge mistake of altering the setting of their emergency heating as soon as winter hits. Don’t ever do this as if you do, you are wasting your time and money. Your primary heating source can take care of the job perfectly fine and will use the secondary source if and when necessary. So, the question we all want answering is: when should I interfere with my emergency heating? The answer is simple: if and when an actual emergency happens. These emergencies may include: when the bad weather conditions (such as bad storms) have broken your primary heat source and/or when your heating device becomes faulty due to other reasons.


The bottom line of emergency heat? Only use it in an emergency!


If you’re wondering why emergency heat should be simply turned on whenever you want, we have listed some reasons:


  1. Emergency heat can work out extremely expensive

As stated above, emergency heat is not meant for long term use, therefore if you use it occasionally throughout the year, you won’t see a huge increase in your heating bill. However, if you run emergency heat non-stop, you’ll definitely see a rise in your heating bills. Use your emergency heat wisely to avoid a shock.


  1. You’re wasting your time

If you’ve been told for years that you ought to switch on the emergency heat as soon as the cold temperatures comes and you’ve never felt the need to question it, you’ve slipped into bad and misunderstood habits. Break those habits now, stop wasting your time and money and stop using your emergency heat unnecessarily.


  1. There could be other underlying issues you need to be concentrating on first

If you’re using your emergency heat in situations where it should be used, there is no issue. However, if every single year you seem to run into an issue, the chances are that there could be an underlying issue that needs to be fixed. The best thing to do in this situation would be to get in contact with a professional and ask them to run a health check on your entire heating system. Eliminate any problems and start over with your heating system.


How to Stay Warm Without Using Emergency Heating

Now you’ve established when to use and when not to use your emergency heat, you may be wondering how you’re meant to keep your home warm and toasty enough in the winter without running to your thermostat and switching on the emergency heat setting. Here are our top tips to keep warm throughout the winter:


  • Place draught excluders by gaps between doors and floors – this will prevent any icy cold air blowing into your home.
  • Buy a hot water bottle – nothing beats snuggling up to a hot water bottle, just be sure to wrap it up in a cover so that it doesn’t burn you!
  • Wear a thick jumper and invest in some fleece blankets.
  • Buy some proper loft insulation – decent loft insulation dramatically increases the heat in your home and ultimately brings your heating bills right down.
  • Check your windows – old windows may not be suitable for keeping warm air in and cold air out. For a longer term solution, consider double glazed or triple glazed windows.


The above are only a couple of ways in which you may consider keeping your home warm and cozy throughout the winter. There are various other inventive ways that you can keep your own home toasty.


Is It OK to Use Primary Heating Throughout Winter?

The winter months can be particularly difficult to get through, so it can be tempting to whack your thermostat right up, plus the emergency heat setting. We’ve already established when to not put the emergency heat on, so the question remaining is: can I leave my regular heating on throughout the whole of winter? The answer to this is yes and no.


While primary heating sources and units are not as energy consuming as emergency heat, it is still not advisable to leave your heating on constantly as this is wasteful money wise and efficiency wise. If you live in an area that suffers rather chilly cold spells, you’d be best off putting your thermostat on a timer (for example, having it start one hour before you wake up or arrive home from work so that your home is warm enough for you without the need to keep your heating on all the time) and by purchasing various other heating and heat saving methods that will work with your primary heating unit (such as insulation and excluders).


Whatever you do, never leave ANY heating unit or setting on 24/7, whether it be the primary or secondary heat source. Leaving heating units on full power constantly is harmful to the environment, bad for your bank balance, encourages bad habits and could be potentially dangerous.


Other Winter Tips

As well as keeping your eye on your heating units this winter, you should also do the following:


  • Invest in decent flooring (i.e carpeting)
  • Check your loft insulation and get a professional to fix and patch up any holes.
  • Close your curtains – this will prevent some cold air blowing in and warm air escaping.
  • Search your house for cracks and holes where cold ir can get in and warm air can get out – make sure you check areas you do not go in often, such as the garage and loft. Even if you do not use these rooms, they will contribute to the overall temperature of your home.
  • Have your heating unit and thermostat serviced by a professional before winter starts – this will eliminate any issues before they occur. By having your heater serviced before winter starts, you’ll probably get it seen to and any issues fixed quicker because you’ll have missed the winter rush of customers who have forgotten to check their appliances earlier.
  • Buy some slippers, cardigans and sweaters!
  • Get into the habit of closing doors and creating small spaces that will heat up quickly and efficiently.



It may be difficult to find the balance between a freezing cold home and a boiling hot one. Nonetheless, with dedication and planning, you’ll soon be able to figure out which methods work throughout your home every winter. By keeping up good practices, you’ll soon be keeping your home at the optimum temperature for you and your family, and surprisingly you’ll be saving yourself money and time by not switching on the emergency heat carelessly.


Don’t get us wrong, emergency heat is extremely beneficial when it is needed. It’s simply not needed at the drop of a hat when you’re feeling a little bit colder than the other winter and fall nights. Enjoy your emergency heat; don’t abuse it and waste your money though!

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