Our first home was fairly small. Some how the builders managed to cram 3 bedrooms into less than 1200sq feet. I’m not sure how. We moved into the house in January, in South Dakota.
It. Was. Cold.
You know how on the info sheet for the house the previous owner is supposed to put how much the monthly utilities bill is? The previous owner for ours put down $78. Our first bill? $300. I was not happy.
We were used to living on less, not spending a lot on heat and in no way did we splurge. Previously to moving to our first house we have lived in a camper and only used a space heater and previously to that we lived in an very old house and only heated 2 rooms. There was no way our bill could be $300.
Over that first winter we learned a lot about saving money on heating bills and I hope that you can take something from our very expensive and still very cold first winter as homeowners experience.
1. If you think the bill is wrong, don’t be afraid to call the electric company. (Or gas or whatever heat source you have.) Our house had all electric cove heating. We received a 30% discount on our heating bill from October to March for using “green heat.” And our bill was still $300. Our first call was to the electric company. They sent an electrician out from the company and examined our heating devices and electric box. We learned that even if the heaters said they were off, they still took electricity until you switched off the breakers. (Nice, right??) It didn’t cost anything for them to come out and inspect and we learned a valuable tip.
2. Turn off the heat in the rooms you don’t use. When we first moved in we rarely used the living room and one of the bedrooms, preferring to hang out in the office. We heated that room, the bathrooms, the main bedroom, and the kitchen, and that was it. Unless you are concerned about pipes freezing under any of these rooms (which you could insulate) this works fine.
3. Insulate, insulate, insulate. At the end of the previous season stock up on the super cheap window sealers, door sealers, ect. We found ours for more than 80% off to use for this winter. It is amazing how much heat leaks out of your house from around the windows and doors! If you can’t afford those, just go with masking tape or painters tape. Not the prettiest but it works just fine and then you don’t end up with snow on your living room floor. (I may be speaking from experience here. )
4. If you meet the income guidelines you might qualify for weatherization help. There is no reason that anyone should be cold through the winter, especially if they are bitter, wind chilling, cold winters like we have here. Whether you rent or own you may qualify for weatherization assistance.
5. Put on clothes. Well, I hope you are already dressed! But through the winter, through on a few extra layers. Grab a couple comfy sweaters from a thrift shop or when you are out at rummage sales in the summer and snuggle in. You could even get a Snuggli. (even though personally, I’ll stick to my sweater) Wear whatever it is that keeps you warmest. And make sure you wear socks and slippers! I’m always 10x colder if I don’t have my socks on! I invested in a nice pair of slippers during Christmas clearance one year that are more like boots. They are great because then your ankles stay warm as well!
6. Flip the switch. On your ceiling fans that is. Most ceiling fans have a switch that makes them rotate clockwise or counter-clock wise. In the winter you want them to go in a clockwise direction so it pushes the warm air from the ceiling back down.
7. Use a space heater, with discretion. Something I learned from my grandparents.... Space heaters can be very expensive but they are the quickest way to warm up a room. If you turned the heat down in a room overnight, in the morning, shut the door, turn on a space heater and within a matter of minutes it should be heated up to a nice temp. Try and keep the door closed if you are staying in that room to keep the warm air in.
8. Embrace the sun! In the summer you try and keep the sun out so you keep the heat out. In the winter you want the sun to shine in to heat the house during the day (on the days that the sun is shining!) and then close the blinds or curtains at night to have the extra “covering” over the windows to keep the cold out.
9. Caulk. Such a useful tool! Caulk around window and door gaps and anywhere else in your home where cold could seep in. Once you finally get the house warm you don’t need all the heat to creep out! Caulk is very inexpensive and easy to apply. Even I can do it and that's really saying something. 😉
10. Insulate your pipes. If the temp in your house is going to be down, or if it’s just all around very cold where your pipes are located and if you have access to them, insulate your pipes. You don’t need anything expensive, pipe insulation only costs a few dollars for several yards. Plus the last thing you want to be dealing with when it’s -40F outside with the wind and snow blowing is a burst water pipe, believe me.
11. Consider an alternative heat source. We installed a wood stove last year for about $300 including the stove, tile for the floor and walls and the piping. Shop around on Craigslist or even at a local Restore for a good deal but if you buy one used, make sure to have it inspected before you use it.
12. Get foam inserts for your outlets. We replaced all the outlets in our entire house because they were very old and we found out that a great deal of cold air rushes in through the outlets. You can buy a big pack of foam outlet inserts for only a couple dollars to put behind the outlet and block the cold air from coming in.
Follow all these tips and you should stay warm and cozy this winter! Make sure to stockpile your pantry for winter in case you get snowed it! And get prepared for some good old fashioned winter family time. 🙂 And of course find even more ways to save money!
How are Little House Living readers keeping their heating bills down this winter? Here are some excellent tips to try!
- Thermostat as low as u can go. Cover up with blankets if u are cold, sweat pants, socks, sweater and hot beverages! Vickie L.
- We try to keep our house temperature the same throughout the year - 66 degrees. I lower our thermostat during the day when no one is home. We keep rolled towels pushed against our two outside doors at the bottom to stop drafts from coming in and stop heat from escaping. We also have 2 small portable heaters that can be moved as needed. Kristen C.
- We don't turn the heat on! Grab a sweater and start a fire. If you don't have a wood stove like we do, strategically placed space heaters work wonders. Also, cook in the oven every meal. Candles make a difference too, even if it seems minimal. Robbie S.
- We turn our heater to 60 at night and have a infrared heater in our bed room, and a heater in our bathroom, warm clothing, we also use reusable hand warmers or foot warmers, and electric mattress cover, we turn it on before bed time on low so it is not cold under the blankets, and hot tea. Nancy S.
- We drink hot beverages and eat soups to keep us warm. I also have lots of warm throws on every piece of furniture for those who are chilly, makes a great decoration for whatever the season too. Diane M.
- We pre-buy our propane in August so we get the cheapest rate. Lucy S.
What are you doing to help keep your heating bills down this winter?
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