Service the Furnace
The most obvious yet overlooked step you can take to save money on winter heating costs is to have your furnace serviced in the fall to ensure that it's working as efficiently as possible. Some companies will offer free tune-ups, but you'll have to be proactive about hunting them down.
When it comes to heat loss, windows are some of the biggest culprits, so it's important to insulate them properly. For an inexpensive fix, cut a piece of bubble wrap to fit perfectly inside the window frame, spray a thin film of water on the window, and place the bubble wrap on the glass. The layer of plastic will let the sunlight in while keeping the warmth where it belongs: inside.
Flip the Fan
We all know that warm air rises, but this common fact can have a chilling effect on our heating bills. Although it seems like switching your ceiling fan on would cool things off, doing so can actually make your spaces toastier, so long as you set the blades to spin in a clockwise manner. (To reverse the rotation, check for a switch at the base of your fan.) This change of direction creates a slight updraft that will push the warm air toward the walls and back down into the room.
Take the Test
Air leaks are a major source of heat loss. Check your home for possible gaps with this easy test: Hold a piece of toilet paper in front of your window and door frames. If the toilet paper moves, you've found a crack that needs to be sealed. Use weatherstripping to fill the gaps so that the heat stays tucked inside, and consider adding foam insulation to outlets to reduce heat loss even more.
Reflect Your Radiator
If you have radiators in your home, try fashioning reflective plates out of aluminum foil and placing one behind each unit. Instead of just heating up your wall, the radiator will heat the foil, which will reflect warmth back into the room and allow you to make the most of the unit's output.
Consider the Cost of Exhaust
Exhaust fans do a great job of ridding your bathroom of humid air after a hot shower. But running them continuously can actually run up your monthly heating bills, because as the fans pull warm air out of the room, that air is replaced by colder air that then needs to be heated. Switch your fans on only when necessary to ensure that you're not wasting any of your hard-earned heat.
Stop Drafty Doors
If you have drafty doors, craft an inexpensive DIY fix from foam pipe insulation. Cut the foam to size, and wrap it around the bottom of your doors—yes, even the interior ones!—to prevent heat from escaping and utility costs from increasing. If you're not up for a project, there are plenty of affordable draft dodgers you can purchase. The best part is that these draft dodgers are easy to remove when the weather warms up, so you have no excuse not to try out this budget-saving solution. Available from Amazon; $16.99.
Grab a Jacket
If you don't have a jacket for your water heater, odds are you're wasting the warmth. Consider insulating your unit to reduce heat loss and save a little cash—about $20 a month, according to the U.S. Department of Energy. To test to see if your water heater needs additional insulation, simply touch it. If it feels warm, it could probably use a blanket, but check your owner's manual first to make sure your model can be covered.
Let the Sunshine In
This is by far the easiest thing you can do to lower home heating bills: Raise the blinds when the sun is out! It's especially important to keep window coverings open on south-facing windows, because they bring in the warmest afternoon sun. Just remember to close your curtains again at night to keep all the toasty air inside until the sun returns.
Upgrade to a Smart Thermostat
Sip Something Hot
Iced coffee or iced tea might be your go-to beverage to help you get through the day, but come winter it might be time to make the switch to the hotter option. Hot cocoa, tea, and coffee will warm you up on the inside and still give you that kick of caffeine you need.
A top sheet and comforter might be plenty during other seasons, but in the winter switch up your bedding. Try making your bed with flannel sheets and fleece blankets, then drop your thermostat down a couple degrees at nighttime to stay warm without burning through extra cash.
Related: 10 Ways to Buy Better Sleep
Don't Start a Fire
There's nothing quite as cozy as sitting by a roaring fire, but you could be paying for it in the form of higher energy bills. In traditional fireplaces, about 80% of heat escapes right up the chimney, meaning you've got to pay extra to heat your home by firewood. If you favor a winter blaze, consider upgrading your fireplace with energy-efficient inserts to keep more heat where you want it.
Close the Flue
Mom was right—dressing for the weather does make a difference. Layer up and wear socks and slippers around the house. Fashion retailer Uniqlo sells shirts, undershirts, long underwear, leggings, and socks with their HEATTECH technology that traps heat to keep you warm. And when you can't shake a chill? Throw your sweatshirt in the dryer for a quick spin to warm it up.
Don't Go Broke
If you have the money to hire a handyman for every household woe, go ahead. But if you want to hang on to your cash and exercise some self-sufficiency, check out these clever products that solve a million and one little problems around the house. Go now!