9 Easy Ways to Lower Your Heating Bill This Winter

Don’t throw money out the (poorly insulated) window this winter. Follow these tips for easy and cheap ways to save money on your heating bill.
Lower your heating bill—and increase your hygge.
Lower your heating bill—and increase your hygge. / Tony Anderson/DigitalVision/Getty Images

Unless you live in a scorching climate, heating your home is a necessary and unavoidable expense every winter. Rather than just accepting this as an annual hit to your wallet, try out some of these helpful tips to raise the heat and lower your bills.

1. Fill gaps around doors and windows.

You’ve spent money heating your house, so the last thing you want to do is to let that heat seep out. Warmed air leaking out around poorly sealed doors, window frames, power sockets, recessed light fittings, and other gaps is a big source of heat loss in homes. When the wind blows, you may even feel drafts from those gaps. Use caulk, foam strips, or expanding foam to seal up unwanted cracks in your home. Ventilation is important, but you can control it.

2. Upgrade your insulation.

If your house is modern and well constructed, its walls, floors, ceilings, and roof will already contain some insulation material. Commonly, builders use affordable fiberglass or expanded polystyrene (EPS) to insulate homes. But many other types are available—from sheep’s wool to thin-but-effective NASA-style metallic “multifoil.” Add extra insulation to your home cheaply by layering up mineral wool in your attic. Thick curtains help to insulate glass at windows. If your windows are single-glazed, consider sticking transparent polyethylene film to your internal window frames to act as super-low-budget “double-glazing.”

3. Get, set, and forget your thermostats.

Woman setting a digital thermostat on the wall.
Set it and forget it. / Westend61/Getty Images

Although some people seem to struggle with the concept, thermostats are self-regulating devices that keep spaces at a constant temperature. If you have room thermostats, decide what temperature you want for each room, set them, and then leave them alone. They have one job, so let them do it. Fiddling with them won’t do much besides cost you money. 

Although they’re not cheap, you can buy ultra-efficient learning thermostats—such as the Nest Learning Thermostat—that automatically track your patterns of temperature preference and auto-adjust accordingly.

4. Turn down your water heater’s temp.

Water has a very high specific heat capacity. It doesn’t like to warm up, so you have to input a lot of energy to force it to. On the upside, it also takes a long time to cool down, so it’s an efficient energy storage medium. To reduce the amount of energy used in heating up all that water, turn down your water heater a little. Many water heaters are factory-set to a 140°F (60°C) default, and reducing the temperature by as little as 10°F (5.5°C) will save you money—up to 5 percent of your water-heating costs.

5. Lower your emissivity.

Thermal energy is infrared radiation. With an infrared camera, cold spots in a house, like windows, appear dark or even black. The term emissivity describes the amount of infrared radiation that objects radiate. These days, you can fit low-emissivity (“low-e”) glazing in your home. A special coating on window glass makes it a better reflector of thermal energy, reflecting much more heat back into the room than standard glass by allowing less to radiate away outside. As a cheap alternative to replacement windows, stick low-e window film to your standard glass to improve its thermal performance.

6. Catch the sun while it shines.

Cat snoozing on a sunny windowsill
Open your curtains to let in the sun‘s heat. / Olena Ruban/Moment/Getty Images

Even if you don’t have solar panels, you can still take advantage of the sun’s energy to heat your home in the winter. Open your south-facing curtains at sunrise to make best use of the sun’s rays (which experts call “passive solar gain”). This works particularly well if your home has stone or concrete floors: These materials have a large thermal mass, meaning they soak up a lot of heat and release it slowly. Remember to close your curtains as soon as the sun dips to trap all that free heat.

7. Force warm air downwards.

Denser, cooler air stays closer to the ground, and warmer air rises. All that warm air isn’t much use to you up at the ceiling, so force it downwards with a low-speed ceiling fan. Simply reverse the fan’s setting, which sends the warm air upwards and redistributes it back down to mix with the rest of the air in the room, gradually raising the ambient temperature.

8. Use “waste heat.”

Some equipment in your home generates a lot of “waste heat” during normal operation. Think about a desktop computer. During processing, its CPU belts out waste heat that’s conducted to a heat sink and then dispersed with the aid of cooling fins and a fan. Computers—especially powerful gaming ones—are like convection heaters. Position your workstation where you can best use that thermal energy to help warm your room, for a free (though subtle) Grand Theft Auto-assisted heating system.

9. Work out regularly.

Woman doing ab crunch and lifting weight at home
Working out will increase your body temperature. / Thomas Barwick/DigitalVision/Getty Images

Working out raises your body temperature by burning calories of heat faster. Your body converts food energy into a nucleic acid called adenosine triphosphate (ATP), which, among other things, allows you to maintain a body temperature around 98.6°F (37°C). These energy-producing chemical reactions in your body generate heat, and they do more reacting when you exercise, temporarily raising your body temperature above normal.

Finally, you can always take your mom’s advice for lowering the thermal conductivity of your own external insulating layer—otherwise known as putting on another sweater.

A version of this story was published in 2015; it has been updated for 2024.