Winter is dark, cold, long and … well, expensive, at least where heating a home is concerned. The cost of heating oil climbs every year, and electricity is not cheap. How can we save money and still keep the house at a comfortable temperature?

Thankfully, there are a number of ways to curb heating costs, and most are easy to implement. These 10 tips will help you enjoy the season and worry a little less about the expense of heating your home.

Energy Audits

It’s hard to know what changes can be made to help lower your bills, but help is a just a phone call away. Your local electric company is happy to assess your needs, lifestyle and patterns of energy usage. A representative will go through your home to inspect the structure, survey your appliances and measure the insulation.

Once this is done, the company will make (and help to implement) suggestions for more efficient energy consumption. Often the suggestions come with rebate incentives that will help reduce your bill even further.

Air Leaks

Whether you are in a new house or an older one, drafty windows, doors and attics allow cold air in and draw heated air out. It is important to seal up any leaks to keep the heat inside. Start by checking the weatherstripping around your windows and doors, and replace if it appears worn.

Next, check for any leaks where heated air can seep into an unfinished attic space. Cuts made into the drywall to install lighting fixtures and ceiling fans create easy escape routes, too. Seal the openings using silicone or latex caulk.  By sealing air leaks, you can realize energy savings of about 30 percent.


It is tempting to set your thermostat for a comfortable 75 degrees during the winter months, but this is a surefire way to boost your energy expenses. The lower the setting, the more savings you will realize.

The commonly agreed-upon lowest comfortable setting is 68 degrees; keeping it at 75 degrees can cost 15 percent more. If 68 degrees seems chilly, you can always wear a sweater and slippers to stay warm.

Setting the thermostat to 62 overnight will save you even more on your energy bill. And, if you’ll be gone for a few days, turn the temperature down to 55; this is the lowest setting you can use without the pipes freezing.


Insulation is perhaps the most important component to keeping a home warm in the winter and cool in the summer. To save money, make sure you have the proper level of insulation in the attic and between the inside walls. Heat losses can add close to 30 percent to your energy bill.

Insulation has an R-value measured by the amount of heat allowed to pass through it. The higher the value, the less likely heat will escape, resulting in lower energy bills. Heat rises and easily escapes through an attic if the space is not properly insulated.


Fireplaces are excellent sources of heat and can warm a room in a matter of minutes. Snuggling up with a cup of hot cocoa and a good book in front of a fire is a relaxing way to spend a cold winter evening, too. Fireplaces do have their drawbacks, though.

Similar to air leaks in drywall and unfinished attic spaces, a fireplace damper left open when not in use is an invitation for heated air to escape and cold air to funnel into your home. Close the damper after every use and, more important, open it before you light a fire or your home will fill with smoke.

Air Vents or Radiators

Air vents and radiators can be eyesores in a room; they are designed to be functional, not pretty. In an effort to cover them up, many people use furniture or window treatments to hide the air vents, or screens over the radiators. These methods only serve to obstruct the airflow, making the furnace work much harder.

It is best to accept them for what they are and keep the airflow moving freely throughout the space. One trick that will help to hide these while not hindering airflow is to paint them the same color as the wall or the flooring so they fade into the background.

Ceiling Fans

High ceilings are wonderful, but they can increase your heating bills as the warm air rises to the top of the room. If you have a ceiling fan, change the direction of the blades; set it to push the air downward along the walls by reversing the flow of the fan.

Circulating warm air back through the room will heat the room more evenly and ease the effort your heater needs to keep the room at a comfortable temperature.

Window Treatments

Window treatments are beautiful features in a living room or bedroom, but they do much more besides add color to a space. Full drapes, especially those made of a wool-cotton blend, help to insulate a room from the cold air seeping through the windows. Line the window treatments to provide more insulation and another layer to keep out the chill in the evening.

Space Heaters

It may seem like a great idea to turn on a space heater for a little extra warmth in a small space, but they pose several threats. First, they are expensive to operate, regardless of the type; electrical ones run up your bill, and kerosene can be costly. Second, they are dangerous; accidentally knocking one over could start a fire and cause personal injury. The perceived savings is not worth the risk.

Area Rugs

Area rugs are often used as a design element in a room; they add color and style while unifying a space. During the cold winter months, they serve another important function: Rugs add a layer of insulation to the floor, trapping cool air underneath and keep it from seeping up and cooling the room. The warmth of the rug will keep your feet toasty, too.

The best way to hold down your heating costs is to heat your home efficiently while keeping the cold out. Adequate insulation in the attic, heavy window treatments and an extra rug on the floor will help to keep a room warm. Keep the warm air in, moderate the temperature and before long you’ll realize the savings.

Take that savings and venture somewhere warm or invest in something special. Either option is better than paying high heating costs. What would you do with the money you save?