According to the US Energy Information Administration, the average winter gas bill in the United States is just over $500. This bill can double or even triple for those who heat their homes with oil, propane, or electricity. To make it worse, the US Bureau if Labor and Statistics reported a 27% increase in the cost of energy in February 2022. Natural gas has double in price.
And Southside Virginia is no exception. It pays for us to do all we can to bring these costs down. Not only will this help us save money but it will have a positive impact on the environment as well.
Here are 12 ways to cut your HVAC heating bill in Virginia.
Tip 1 - Cook Indoors During Winter
We all enjoy the break from the kitchen. Perhaps cooking on the grill. Or even better, treating yourself to a nice dinner out. But there is a bonus to cooking indoors during the winter. All of the heat used to cook the food does more than one job. It also warms up your house. That means less strain on your furnace and your heating bill.
To be clear, using your range for the sole purpose of heating your home is never a good idea. Not only is this inefficient but it isn’t safe either. On top of that, most modern ovens will shut off automatically after a certain amount of time.
Nevertheless, your stove can provide some supplemental heat when cooking. By preparing your meals at home in the oven or on the stovetop, you’ll end up saving money on your food bill and your heating bill this winter.
Tip 2 - Do Your Workout at Home
The human body burns about 100 watts of power when at rest. While this produces some heat, it certainly isn’t enough to warm a room or even your own body in cold weather. However, you can dramatically increase your internal furnace wattage when you exercise.
Researchers at Stanford University found that while exercising, the average person will produce 300 - 400 watts of energy. On the extreme end, a person can generate up to 1,000 watts of energy with vigorous exercise. This isn’t going to warm up your 2,000 square foot home, but it will warm you up enough to drop the thermostat by a few degrees for an hour or two. Do this every day this winter and you’ll save money while getting fit.
Tip 3 - Get Thermal Curtains for Your Windows
Windows can be a big source of heat loss. This is especially true in homes with older windows. One way to reduce this heat loss is to place a thick curtain over the window. The curtain will reduce drafts and provide a layer of insulation over the window.
Make sure you use “thermal curtains.” These have a better insulating property than other curtains. Of course, you will want to enjoy the beauty of winter in the room you are enjoying. But don't forget to close the thermal curtains in your other rooms and at night.
Tip 4 - Open Your Curtains On Sunny Days
Passive solar heat can increase the temperature in your home by several degrees each afternoon. This energy is free and all you have to do to take advantage of it is to open your curtains during the sunniest part of the day.
The key here is letting the sunshine enter your house. When the sunlight hits your home's surfaces this light energy is converted to heat energy. This works primarily on south-facing windows where the sun can directly enter your windows. Once the day advances to the point the sunlight is no longer entering your house, feel free to let the thermal curtains do their job of keeping your heat inside.
Tip 5 - Cover Your Windows with Plastic
Another way to add some additional insulation to your windows is to add a sheet of plastic over them. Of course, you don’t want plastic over your windows most of the time. But when a deep freeze is going to hit, it may be worth pulling them out for a few days.
A sheet of plastic will trap air between your window and the inside of your room. The extra air gap that this produces will create another layer of insulation that you wouldn’t have otherwise had.
Another simple and inexpensive trick to improve your window’s insulation value during the coldest months is bubble wrap. This has even more insulating value than sheet plastic. Slightly dampen your windows with a damp sponge. Then place a layer of bubble wrap on the windows. No need to adhere them, the dampness from the sponge moisture will adhere them for the entire winter season.
Tip 6 - Heat Only The Rooms You Need To
Why keep your entire home at 70 degrees when you’re only using one room? This is especially true for small households of just one or two. In these houses, it may be just one bedroom that’s used at night. Why not turn down the thermostat for the whole house and just keep your bedroom cozy warm?
If you're the only one at home during the day, perhaps keep the house slightly cooler and just keep one room cozy-warm, like your home office, knitting room, or the room you enjoy. This is best done with space heaters with their own temperature gauges. They will shut themselves down once you reach your desired temperature.
Tip 7 - Wear Warmer Clothes
The most economical way to save money on your HVAC heating bill is to keep yourself warm without having to heat the air around you as much. Perhaps save your tank top, cami, or shorts for the warmer days. Enjoy your cardigan, sweat pants, and other warm garments.
Try enjoying your favorite hot beverage, with slippers and your favorite warm outfit. You will save so much on your heating bill, you can buy a brand new warm outfit to celebrate and stay in style.
Tip 8 - Use a Humidifier
Humid air will help you stay warm. How?
Dry air increases our body’s natural evaporative cooling process. Unfortunately, our heating systems typically dry the air out and make it feel colder than it is. By adding humidity into the air, it slows our body’s cooling process and we stay warmer.
Solve this problem by adding a humidifier to your home. While warm mist humidifiers can add more desired heat to your house, they also add more to your electric bill. You’ll need to weigh out if the lower gas bill but higher electric bill saves money. One thing about warm mist humidifiers, they are definitely the more effective variety.
Cool-mist humidifiers, on the other had, are good year-round. If you think you will want to humidify during warmer months, go with the cool-mist variety.
Aim for humidity levels between 40% and 60%. This provides a very comfortable environment that will help lower your heating bill. It's also the range that reduces the growth of bacteria, viruses, fungi, mites, mold. Mildew, and asthma. The exact best relative humidity is 50%. But so long as you are within the range of 40 to 60, you are in great shape.
Tip 9 - Line Dry Your Clothes
If you prefer not to use a humidifier, there are other ways to add humidity to the air. One way to do this is passively through the use of wet clothes. Line dry your clothes inside your home in the winter. As your clothes dry, they’ll add moisture to the indoor air. This way, you’ll save money on heating costs, electricity for the humidifier, as well as clothes drying costs.
Tip 10 - Get Houseplants
Houseplants can also be used to add moisture to the air. They are nature’s humidifiers. How does that work?
Plants must release moisture so that they can “breath”. The only way they can draw nutrients up through the ground is to absorb them in the water. In order to keep drawing up more nutrients, the plants have to suck more water. They do this by evaporating the water in the leaves. That evaporated water humidifies the environment.
By simply watering your plants each day, you are allowing them to absorb their needed nutrients, and they’ll help keep the humidity levels in your home comfortable. Not only that, but they provide your home with unmatched natural beauty, plenty of oxygen, and even remove dangerous gases and bad odors. For more on this, check out our article on 9 Steps to Remove VOCs and Odors in Your Home.
Tip 11 - Add Windbreaks To The Outside of Your Home
According to the Department of Energy, “properly selected, placed, and maintained landscaping can provide excellent wind protection, or windbreaks, which will reduce heating costs considerably”. The reason for this is that windbreaks reduce windchill on your home and slow down your home's rate of heat loss.
Some examples of windbreaks might include large bushes, evergreen trees, fences, and walls. While having ample tall trees close to your home can provide the best windbreak it can also pose a danger during storms. Make sure your trees and saplings are far enough away from your home to keep your family safe.
Tip 12 – Keep Your HVAC System in Good Shape
Over time, your HVAC system will slowly become less efficient. This means your system will have to use more energy to keep your home warm. The wasted energy could be caused by anything from leaky ducts, to an unbalanced system, dirty ducts, low refrigerant charge, or warn parts.
We recommend having a regular maintenance plan to keep your system as energy-efficient as possible. Beyond saving money on your heating bill there are even bigger reasons to get regular HVAC servicing. For one, you will minimize unexpected breakdowns at the worst times of the year. Secondly, your HVAC system will last longer, delaying an expensive system replacement.
Time to Save Money
To find out when you should get your system serviced, check out our article on how often your HVAC needs maintenance.
This article focused on lowering your HVAC heating bills. Want more ways to save? Check out our article on knowing how to economize on your HVAC energy bills no matter what season it is.