Turn down the heat, save some money

Now that winter weather is finally upon us, it’s time to have that conversation about turning down the heat. This is yet another NOW (Nugget of Wisdom) that I got from my parents, and I can say I’ve really taken this one to heart.

In the interest of full disclosure, I seem to be able to handle cold temperatures pretty well, despite being on the slim side. I chuckle at the fact that I walk to work in a couple of shirts and a large sweater, and those who are driving are wearing coats. I was still wearing sandals through the end of November. I do move with a fast pace, so I’m sure this helps to keep me warm.

My belief is, if it’s winter, then I should be able to wear winter clothing indoors. If I am comfortable without wrapping up in several layers, then it is too warm, and I need to turn the heat down. Likewise, I should be able to wear lightweight clothes indoors during the summer months, but I’m often very chilled when I encounter air conditioning in public places.

I am further convinced the colder you keep your home the less the cold will affect you when you go out. I don’t know if this is scientifically proven, but it makes sense to me — if it’s 40 degrees out and your home is 80, then that’s a big temperature difference. If you keep your place at 60, then 40 outdoors it isn’t that big of a change.

But the real appeal I’m going to make is to your wallet — I will admit my cheapskate nature does go a long way into helping me adjust to the cooler temperatures. From what I’ve read, you can generally save around 10 percent on your heating bill through turning down the thermostat by about three to four degrees. If you are heating a whole house then that can be a sizable reduction.

Of course, keeping your house as cold as possible will yield the most savings, but there are other strategies to help cut costs. Letting the temperature drop overnight when you are asleep and snuggled under blankets works well and also cutting back when you are gone all day at work. If you are planning extended time in the kitchen with cooking or baking, you can probably give the furnace a break then, too.

You might find times that you need a bit more heat — in the morning when you are getting dressed or when you come home in the evening. Just be sure to turn it back down once you’ve taken the extreme chill out of the air or you’ll be right back to where you started, and your body won’t have a chance to get used to the lower temperatures.

Another important thing to consider is winterizing your home. There’s no point in living in an icebox if you’re still not saving money due to energy leaks. Look for drafts around windows, and recaulk as needed. Get those long, thin tube-shaped bolsters filled with bean bag material that you can put at the bottom of doors. You might even consider putting up heavy curtains to section off parts of your home you don’t use as much — areas that can stand to be a little colder.

Change your furnace filters; if they are dirty, they require more energy to get the air through them (not to mention your air will be much cleaner, which is important in the winter when more people suffer from respiratory ailments). Check to see if your ceiling fan can change direction: Counterclockwise is used for cooling but clockwise will push the warm air back down to your living space. (I did not know this until I did some research for this article and just got done adjusting my fan.)

Then make this next part fun. Wrap up in something soft and fuzzy, get some crazy slippers, or you could even wear one of those cute hats with animal ears and tassels. Have a hearty stew with some fresh baked bread. After dinner, light candles and tell stories in the dark like they did in the old days. Make a special drink like hot spiced cider and turn the evening into a celebration.

Saving energy and cutting heating costs doesn’t have to feel like deprivation, and winter doesn’t have to be miserable. With just a little effort and creativity, you can be as snug as a bug in a rug.