Sunday, December 14, 2008

My heating bill is giving me a heart attack

I got my heating bill today. The good part: Thanks to some creative measures and my black belt in Yankee frugality, we were able to trim the bill by about 30 percent, compared to last year at this time. The bad part: Thanks to the current cost of fuel, which is higher than this time last year, I still ended up paying about the same for heat. For now.

Here are 10 things that I've done (and persuaded my husband and kids to do) to lower our heating bill:

1.) Pulled some furniture away from the walls. There's no reason why the bureaus in my bedroom should hoard the heat coming from the baseboards.

2.) Wear turtlenecks and sweaters. They're not sexy, but hey, neither is shivering in the kitchen.

3.) Invest in caulk and bits of insulation. I had no idea I was losing so much heat from places I didn't really think about, like around the fireplace and from electrical outlets in exterior walls (which makes sense, though, because outlets are just holes in your walls with wires poking through, covered with a flimsy face plate). You can find outlet insulators made of flame-retardant foam at home-improvement stores.

4.) Embrace weather stripping. The door to our basement -- which is unheated -- was letting in an unholy draft. After kicking a rolled-up towel out of the way every time I opened or closed it, it finally occurred to me to just install proper weather stripping. And we lived happily ever after.

5.) Embrace the plastic. We had such bad "ghost drafts" that we could practically fly a kite in the family room. My husband hates the plastic -- which is completely transparent -- but loves the lack of an indoor breeze.

6.) Stop heating the whole house. We have programmable thermostats, and we use them. No point in heating the upstairs when we're all hanging out downstairs, or heating the whole house when no one is home.

7.) Get cozy in bed.
That's great, too, but I'm talking about heavy blankets, comforters, footie pajamas if you like them, flannel sheets, and hot water bottles.

8.) Stop using the fireplace so often. I love the cozy glow of a roaring fire, but an open fireplace actually sucks the hot air right out of a room and out the chimney. We invested in a wood stove several years ago -- I thought my husband was nuts, but now I adore it -- and we fire that up for warmth and save the fireplace for the nights when the kids insist on roasting marshmallows.

9.) Turn on the fan.
You can use fans to redirect warm air from near the wood stove to other rooms nearby. If you have high ceilings and ceiling fans, use them to push the warm air down to where you need it.

10.) Actually use all of those throws. We have a ton of throw blankets in the family room, but they were this close to taking up permanent residence on the couch. Now, we put them to good use, and keep the heat turned down a notch.

Want more ideas? Check out the details here, or join the discussion over at Work It, Mom!

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