10 Winter Home Heating Hacks That Will Save You Money

How to keep your toes warm. (When they're warm, you're warm.)
Warm, winter socks.

My wife has very cold toes that always seem to end up tucked under my thigh, so I understand how important it is to keep the house warm for everyone’s sake. But keeping a house cozy isn’t cheap. Everyone wonders how to save money in the winter without freezing. Fear not! Here are 10 winter home heating hacks that save you money.

Capture Hot Shower or Bath Water
A steamed up shower door.

If you have a drain stop, don’t drain the hot water when you shower. Also, don’t drain the water immediately after a bath. Instead, let the water sit and cool slowly until it has reached room temperature. This will allow some of the heat stored in the water to warm up the room a bit. It will also add a little humidity to the house, which is something that most people desperately need in the winter due to the way that many heating systems remove moisture from the air.

Take Advantage of Solar Warming
A sunny window on a cold day.

Do you have any south or west-facing windows? One great way to heat the house naturally is to pull back the curtains and blinds during the time of day that those windows are in direct sunlight. This will allow the sun to heat the room. Just make sure to put back the blinds and curtains when the sun is no longer in direct contact to help you retain the heat.

I don't recommend pulling back the curtains until the sunlight is in direct contact with the window. This is important to remember because it is part of the process that produces the heat. Just seeing light outside is not enough.

An Oven Does More Than Just Bake
An open oven door.

When you use the oven, don’t just close the door and let it cool after you’ve finished baking. Instead, crack the door open after you’ve turned the oven off. This will allow more of the heat to escape into the room. It is an easy way to use the heat that is created during baking to its fullest potential.

An added benefit is that if what you were baking happens to smell delicious, you’ll likely fill your house with that delicious smell.

Set Your Ceiling Fans
A spinning ceiling fan.

Many ceiling fans spin in either direction. The setting that causes the blades to draw air upward is the one you’ll want to use during the cold season. Just turn it on low and let it “blend” the air in the home. Hot air rises, so this fan setting helps to draw the cooler air upward. This blending of the air will help to keep a more uniform temperature throughout the house while making for more efficient heating.

Try Zone Heating
An HVAC floor register.

Zone heating is one of my favorite winter home heating hacks. I find that I usually spend most of my time in just a few areas of my house. It occurred to me that I could probably save money if I shut the doors to the areas I spent less time in and turned the heat down in those areas. Then, I could set the thermostat to a comfortable temperature in the areas of the house where I spend more of my time. Keep the unused rooms much cooler and basically sealed off from the rest of the house. Keep the used rooms comfortable.

Program Your Thermostat
A programable thermostat.

Have a programmable thermostat? If not, it might be worth it to install one. It makes for a very easy way to save some money during the winter months. Just set the temperature to a comfortable level for the hours you’re home, and program it to a much cooler temperature for the hours you’re away.

Worried that you’ll come home to a cold house? Program the thermostat to increase the temperature 30 minutes before you get home. That way you’ll be sure to walk into warm and cozy comfort. Some programmable thermostats have apps that allow you to control the settings via a smartphone. How cool is that?

I recommend setting the heat to 68 degrees F or lower in the winter while you are home and awake. You can lower the setting by several degrees for when you are either asleep or out of the house.

Be Skeptical of Fireplaces
A burning fireplace.

Love wood fireplaces? Me too. There are few things I like more than to get comfy on a soft and warm chair next to the fireplace. But the truth is that wood-burning fireplaces are one of the less-efficient ways to heat a home, as they can actually draw hot air out of the house. Remember that oxygen is a key ingredient to fire and air is where you’ll find the oxygen. As the fire burns, it draws more air from the house into its flame. If you are already heating your house with an electric or gas furnace, you might be wasting some of that cost and effort by also using a fireplace. Besides that, fireplaces are terrible for winter air quality if you live in an area that suffers from frequent winter inversions.

If wood burning is your only source of heat, I’m not asking you to freeze. But for those who have other more efficient heating options, I recommend only using the wood fireplace on occasion.

Plug the Gaps
A front door covered in snow.

Doors and windows have gaps around the edges. Plug them. Try covering drafty windows with a heavy-duty, clear plastic on the inside of the window frame. Don’t keep it up all year through. Just use it during the cold winter months.

As for the exterior doors, it is a good idea to install some weather stripping around the edges. This will block much of the air from getting in or out through the gaps, thus allowing you to retain more of your heat.

Boost Efficiency
A dirty furnace filter.

Save money by increasing the efficiency of your heating system. Remember to replace the furnace filter regularly so the air will flow through the system more efficiently. It is also just a great idea because that is the air you breathe. Keep it clean!

Dress Warmly
A little dog in a little sweater.

This is my #1 recommendation, and for good reason. It is the easiest way to stay warm while saving money. I always like to say that you can always put more clothes on, but there comes a point when you can’t take any more clothes off.

You’ve got the clothes anyway, right? Might as well put them to use. For those with cold toes, try wearing a pair of warm socks while indoors, but warm your feet up first. Socks don't make heat, they keep heat in. A couple of warm layers over the rest of the body is also a good idea. Dressing warmly indoors is a great way to keep cozy while saving a lot of energy and heating costs. You can have the best of both worlds this way—warmth and cost savings.