More than half of your utility bill is devoted to heating and cooling your home. And with temperatures dropping, homeowners are cranking up their heating systems. Whether you heat with natural gas (the most common method), electricity, or oil you can save money by keeping your equipment maintained and upgraded. But the Department of Energy says that it takes more than an energy-efficient furnace alone to realize savings. Adding proper insulation, sealing leaks, and adjusting your thermostat can cut your energy use in half. Here’s advice from the agency on how to save energy this winter.
- Set your programmable thermostat as low as is comfortable and lower the setpoint when you're sleeping or away from home.
- Clean or replace the filters on your furnace once a month or as recommended.
- Clean warm-air registers, baseboard heaters, and radiators; make sure they're not blocked by furniture, carpeting, or curtains.
- Eliminate trapped air from hot-water radiators once or twice a season; if you don’t know how to do it, contact a professional.
- Put heat-resistant radiator reflectors between exterior walls and the radiators.
- Turn off kitchen, bath, and other exhaust fans within 20 minutes after you finish cooking or bathing. If replacing exhaust fans, consider installing high-efficiency, low-noise models.
- Keep the draperies and shades on your south-facing windows open during the day to allow sunlight to enter your home and closed at night.
One of the easiest ways to save is to set your thermostat to 68°F when you're awake and set it lower while you're away from home or sleeping. By turning your thermostat back 10 to 15 degrees for eight hours, you can save 5 to 15 percent a year on your heating bill, according to the DOE.
The best thermostats
In Consumer Reports tests of 30 thermostats, we found 10 to recommend. Three top-scoring models were excellent overall, simple to adjust, and had displays that were easy to read. They include the Venstar ColorTouch Series T5800, $170, the Honeywell Prestige HD YTHX9321R, $250, and the ecobee EB-STAT-02, $300. For much less, you can buy the Lux TX9600TS, $70, a CR Best Buy, which was very good overall. For more models, see our full thermostat Ratings and recommendations.
—Mary H.J. Farrell