With cooler weather comes a heftier heating bill — which makes many homeowners wonder, “Does lowering the thermostat save money?” It’s certainly a popular theory: If you Google “how to save money on electricity bill,” lowering the thermostat is near the top of any list of money-saving tips. But is this cost-saving measure really worth it?
The good news is that yes, turning down the thermostat does lower your overall heating bill. Sure, if you lower your thermostat by 10 to 15 degrees for an eight-hour period you’ll notice a difference. But what if you or someone in your household is home all day? The good news: “Lowering your thermostat by just one or two degrees can slash your heating bill by 5%,” confirms home-improvement pro Danny Lipford. So if you’re willing to sit in a room that’s only slightly cooler than normal all the time, you can save money steadily all month.
All you need is a programmable or a “smart” thermostat, both of which are widely available in home-improvement stores. Research shows that installing one can save 8% to 10% on your monthly electric bill (translating into about $160 a year, on average). “Unlike traditional ones, smart thermostats can be programmed,” says Traci Fournier, Vice President of Operations at One Hour Heating and Air Conditioning.
These smart thermostats also usually include advanced features, such as Wifi capability and the ability to adapt to both weather patterns and your habits. “Try investing in a smart thermostat (like Google Nest), which can cost around $170, but usually pays for itself in the first year,” adds Cisco DeVries, founder of OhmConnect.com, a clean energy company. “Like with a regular thermostat, you set it to the ideal temperatures during specific time periods, but it monitors your energy use and behavior and automatically adjusts settings to make energy use as efficient as possible.”
Another perk to using one? It causes less stress to your HVAC system. “You can extend your old HVAC’s lifespan by carefully programming it and decreasing the amount of time it needlessly runs,” shares Fournier. This helps sidestep other costly repairs or replacements down the road.
To save even more cash: Contact your power company
This thermostat saves you money long-term, but you can cut costs even more by asking if your power company will pay for it! Many cover all or part of the cost of a smart thermostat because it reduces unnecessary drains on the electric grid. Plus, since it connects to your home’s Wi-Fi, allowing them to temporarily adjust your thermostat remotely during peak usage. For example, Duke Energy gives customers a $75 rebate along with a $25 bill credit each year in return for adjusting your thermostat a few degrees for 2 to 3 hours on exceptionally cold days. To find out if your local power company offers this, call their customer service number of visit their website. Tip: If you prefer to control your home’s temperature, in most cases, you can opt out and set the thermostat yourself.
When it comes to saving money by lowering your thermostat, it all comes down to how chilly a house you can tolerate. If you’re willing to keep the house cooler all the time, you could actually double your savings compared to just cooling the house when people aren’t home. But even bumping the temperature down a couple of degrees lower on a consistent basis will have you reaping the financial perks!
Other ways to save money on heating
Lowering your thermostat by even a few degrees isn’t the only way to slash your heating bill. Experts say there are other simple changes you can make around the house.
Insulate windows with bubble wrap
About 30% of a home’s heating energy is lost through older and single-pane glass windows, since they allow cold air to pass through, wasting between $101 and $583 per year, according to the U.S. Department of Energy. While installing energy-efficient, double-pane windows that block cold air can cost thousands of dollars, and applying insulating window film with tape or a hair dryer is a hassle, there’s a far easier solution: bubble wrap, which is available at the dollar store for $1 per six-foot roll. To use it, Leah Bolden, host of the home improvement YouTube channel “See Jane Drill” advises, “Cut the bubble wrap to the size of the window, lightly spray the glass with water to help the plastic stick to it, then apply.” The plastic bubbles act as insulation, keeping out frosty air. Have gaps on the sides or bottom of the window where drafts are coming in? Cut the bubble wrap a little bigger to block them.
Roll up towels to stop drafts
Drafts coming in from gaps around your home account for 10% to 20% of heating costs. One of the biggest gaps you’ll find? The bottom of doors leading to the outside or garage; doors tend to shrink in winter, letting in chilly air. To block drafts, roll up towels and place them at the bottom of doors you don’t open often, such as a side door. And for doors you use daily, Bolden recommends a draft stopper (Buy from Amazon, $14.95), which is a set of two rollers that block drafts from both sides of the door. “It just slips on the bottom of the door.” And to caulk other gaps temporarily —for example, around an attic or crawl space door—Bolden suggests using a removable caulk (like Dap Seal ’N Peel, $8, SimSupply. com) that lets you seal gaps in winter, then peels off when you want to use the door again in spring.
Block hidden gusts with socket sealer
Electrical outlets and light switches are tiny parts of a room, yet they can have a big impact on your heating bill. The reason? Cold air that gets into the walls escapes through open crevices in their cover plate. “Just imagine several small drafts all at once, and all those little drafts will add up to a large draft,” says Christina Klaiber, host of The Frugal Duo YouTube channel. Her easy fix: Use a socket sealer, especially on exterior walls (Buy from Amazon, $5.99). The inserts fit between the wall and outlet or light switch plate and block any small drafts that may come in.
Turn on a humidifier to feel warmer
Ever turn up the heat, but still feel chilly? The problem is that low humidity in winter makes you feel colder despite the thermostat going up. That’s because water vapor is needed to hold on to warm air. This is actually good news since it means that simply adding moisture to the air with a portable room humidifier, so the air reaches 30% to 50% humidity, makes you feel warmer and you can turn down the heat. And for every degree you lower the thermostat, you’ll save an average of 3% on your heating bill.
This article originally appeared in our print magazine, Woman’s World.
This content is not a substitute for professional medical advice or diagnosis. Always consult your physician before pursuing any treatment plan.
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