Tips for Cutting Your Home Heating Costs During Winter

A winter chill can send your home heating costs through the roof, especially when temperatures drop below zero. Common ways to keep your utility bills down during winter are to:

  • Replace Furnace and Heat Pump Filters
  • Ensure Furniture Does Not Block Air Vents
  • Get a Professional HVAC System Tune-Up

In addition to those initial energy-saving tips, there are many more measures to save money and stay warm. 

Receive an Energy Audit

An energy audit will help identify necessary heating system repairs or replacements and areas with insufficient insulation. You should hire a trusted home or building performance contractor to conduct the audit. On average, these assessments cost about $425 and take one to four hours to complete. The contractor will most likely require full access to your appliances, heating and cooling systems, and home.

The scope of home energy audits varies depending on the hired auditor’s credentials and how comprehensive of a report the homeowner wants. In general, an energy audit includes:

  • Home Energy Usage Assessment
  • Areas of Energy Waste Identification
  • Energy Saving Recommendations

Seal Air Leaks and Eliminate Drafts

According to the U.S. Department of Energy, “about 30% of a home’s heating energy is lost through windows.” Even when you keep them closed, doors and windows are susceptible to heat loss. Inspect all possible energy transfer areas throughout the home for air leaks, then follow the appropriate steps to seal them to retain more heat in your living spaces.

Attic and Basement

Attic and basement floors can hide significant leaks. Homeowners must take additional care to thoroughly inspect their attic and basement areas for cracks and holes. Caulk or foam sealant is usually all you need to fill smaller cracks. However, larger holes and gaps may require installing or replacing insulation.


A duct system is vital to a home’s energy efficiency. Ensure your ducts are straight and connected correctly. Uninsulated (or poorly insulated) duct systems or those with gaps or holes can cause your energy bill to skyrocket. Uninsulated ducts, alone, can cause you to lose up to 60% of your heated air before it ever reaches a room’s register(s).

Inspecting your duct system for potential air-leak locations will also help uncover additional necessary repairs or possible system upgrades.

Windows and External Doors

Weather stripping and seals do wonders for keeping heated air where it belongs—inside the home. There are multiple ways you can pinpoint air leaks around your windows and doors:

  • Light a stick of incense from inside your home and hold it in front of your windows and external doors. If the smoke from the burning incense is horizontal (i.e., parallel to the floor), the seal around the fixture is not airtight.
  • Dampen the back of your hand and run it around the perimeter of your window and door frames.
  • Handheld thermal leak detectors are accurate and sensitive devices. Some will even allow you to set a threshold temperature, helping you confirm lesser or more significant temperature differences.

Once you discover air leaks, install or replace damaged weather stripping and apply caulk to broken seals.

Unexpected Heat Loss Areas

Drafts can form around areas other than a window or door. Other spaces where cold air can leak into your home include:

  • AC Units
  • Ceiling Fixtures
  • Electrical Outlets
  • Sinks
  • Toilets

Cold air can also enter through your fireplace, so remember to keep the damper closed when the fireplace is not in use.

Insulate Areas of the Home with High Heat Transfer

Attic Insulation

Attic areas can experience significant heat transfer (i.e., heat loss). Warm air rises, so the challenge is preventing as much of the living spaces’ warm air from leaking into the attic as possible. One way to keep warm air in your living spaces and away from the attic is to ensure your attic’s insulation is sufficient to keep the winter chill outside.

Look for uneven insulation, for example:

  • It is heaped in the middle of the floor but thin along the eaves.
  • It sits level or below the floor joists.

Energy Star recommends hiring a trained professional to install additional insulation to protect the space better. Trained insulation contractors will safely handle the insulating material. They will also determine how much your attic space needs based on the following:

  • The Pre-Existing Amount of Insulation
  • The Climate of Your Geographic Location
  • The Type of Insulating Product You Use

Basement and Crawl Space Insulation

Home basements and crawl spaces are just as vulnerable to energy loss attics. Due to the potential risks of combustion, moisture, and poor air quality when insulating and sealing basements and crawl spaces, we recommend hiring a certified pro through the Building Performance Institute.

Hot-Water System Insulation

Insulating your hot-water system helps curb how much work it has to put in to heat your home’s water supply, reducing the energy the system needs to complete its job.

Luckily, hot-water system insulation is simple to install. Slip foam “sleeves” around your water pipes or near exterior walls. These sleeves cost about $1.00/6 ft but can help you save up to $80 yearly in energy costs and keep your pipes from freezing.

You can also wrap a heat jacket/insulation blanket around the hot-water heater (if your utility company allows it).

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