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Save Money on Your Heating and Electric Bills With These 5 Easy Tricks

Fall and winter months mean spiked bills for many across the US. Here's how to save critical dollars.

Mounted Wyze thermostat set to 72 degrees Fahrenheit
Gas and electric bills are predicted to soar in the winter months. Here's easy ways to slash your heating costs.
Chris Monroe/CNET

This story is part of Home Tips, CNET's collection of practical advice for getting the most out of your home, inside and out.

Temperatures are beginning to drop in some parts of the country, which may have you turning on your heater for the first time this fall. That also means you'll quickly feel the impact on your wallet as those heating bills go up. It's important to go ahead and think about saving money on winter bills, especially as utility companies and energy experts are warning that heating costs will jump 17% nationally.

As utility bills for electricity, natural gas and oil may potentially skyrocket, it makes saving on your heating bill that much more important. Below we explore five ways that you can save on your heating bill all winter long, with tips that range from easy lifestyle adjustments to investing in better equipment. (You can also save on heating costs with this small home upgrade and set your thermostat to this ideal temperature). 

1. Turn down the thermostat

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We've all likely heard this advice. However, it bears repeating since it's the easiest and most direct way to save on energy costs. It might feel nice to keep the home toasty so you don't have to bundle up as much. But the US Department of Energy states that you could save as much as 10% annually on heating costs by turning down the thermostat 7 to 10 degrees Fahrenheit for eight hours per day.

The beautiful part of turning down your thermostat is that you might do it while you're not home during the day so that you don't even notice the difference. You might also consider lowering the thermostat at night. According to the Mayo Clinic, sleeping in colder temperatures might even aid in our body's natural temperature drops at night and lead to more restful sleep. You might want to try keeping your house cooler at night, and if you find you don't mind it or even like it, you just found an easy way to save on heating costs this winter.

Today's smart thermostats even make it easier than ever. You simply set a prerecorded schedule for when you'd like the house to drop several degrees and when to rise several degrees. Set the heat to go up a bit before you tend to get up in the morning, and your house will be warm when you need to get out of bed. 

Read also: Make the Most of Your Smart Thermostat to Save Money and Energy Today

2. Go green with renewable energy 

Solar handles electricity output, so it might not seem like going solar would affect your heating bills. However, if you run an entirely electric central heating system, you might not have to pay gas heating bills at all. This is admittedly the most involved tip on the list. You might have to invest in a solar array, a solar battery and even installing central electric heating. But that way, you avoid the fluctuating costs of natural gas.

The great part about solar is that the panels can still collect energy for your home even in the winter. They just need some extra TLC, like removing the snow from them in northern climates or insulating batteries. You can learn more about winter solar panel care in our guide.

You might also look into which credits are available in your area for solar and if you qualify, such as the 26% tax credit. Solar panels also have the popular benefit of allowing you to sell surplus energy back to the utility companies, if your local utility participates. 

If going all solar in your home isn't a time or monetary commitment you can make right now, you might even look for other green ways to save on your overall electric and heating expenses. One easy way is to outfit your camper with portable solar panels. You might even look into small solar gadgets that can take the load off that heating/electric bill, like solar device chargers or a solar water heater kit.

3. Upgrade your equipment

If you're running an old furnace, chances are you're burning more energy than you need to be. According to the US Department of Energy, fuel efficiency ratings on newer high-efficiency heating systems can run from 90 to 98.5%, as opposed to older low-efficiency systems at 56 to 70%. With electricity prices getting more erratic recently, now might be the time to make the investment a priority.

You might also look into different ways that you can heat your home. We mentioned all-electric systems supported by solar panels above, but there are also heat pumps instead of furnaces. Heat pumps transfer heat from outside, so they tend to be a popular consideration in more temperate climates. You can learn more about heat pumps vs. furnaces in our guide

4. Six easy tips for managing your home's temperature

Beyond updating your equipment, playing with your thermostat or investing in a renewable energy alternative, you can also make little changes that help with your heating bill. These likely won't overhaul your heating bill like new equipment would, but if you feel every little bit helps, you can try a few options like:

  • Open your window shades, curtains or blinds to let the sun in during the day, as that will put less stress on your furnace. 
  • Even baking or cooking at home is an easy way to heat up your home during the day.
  • Put draft stoppers on the doors.
  • Winterize your windows with storm windows outside or plastic covering inside.
  • Keep your heating vents clear of dust and debris.
  • Portable, efficient space heaters can mean turning down the overall temperature but keeping the room you're in warm.

Sometimes little lifestyle habits may leave you surprised about how much you've saved on the energy bill.

5. Check your home for air leaks

An incredibly important part of making sure your home isn't basically leaking money in the winter is to make sure your home has no air leaks. Call the professionals to check for any air leaks in your home; they'll likely perform a blower door test.

You might also want to insulate and seal your home against energy or heat loss yourself. You can read more about how to insulate and air seal in our guide. 

A few final tips to help you save

Since electric costs and heating costs are the same bill for many people, you can even work on reducing your electric consumption to help with that bill overall. Here are several resources to help you save on your electric bill:

It's also hard to know where to save on your electric bill if you don't know what the biggest energy sinks in your home are. Enter smart plugs with energy monitoring, which helps you read how much energy each device in your home takes and helps you track your energy output. 

Down the line, if you should ever move, you may want to make sure the house you're buying is energy efficient. That will help reduce the urge to scream when you open your winter energy bill in the future, as well as other utility bills. This guide shows the different types of systems to keep an eye out for when house hunting. There are the obvious signs that the home might be energy efficient, like the giant solar array on the roof. Some subtler sustainability signs to watch out for include water harvesting systems, tankless water heaters and reclaimed wood. 

More money-saving tips