Extreme cold weather can put a serious strain on your finances if you’re not careful about how much energy you use trying to stay warm. With the right preparation and frugal living strategies, you can make it through brutal winter temps without your utility bills skyrocketing. Read on for over 10 practical tips to save money and stay cozy no matter how low the mercury dips.
Lower the Thermostat
The number one way to cut costs during extreme cold is to simply lower the setting on your thermostat. Set it to around 65°F during the day, then 60°F at night (you can go even lower when sleeping if you pile on the blankets). Get a programmable thermostat to automate temperature changes and maximize savings. Every degree you lower the heat equates to around 1% in energy savings.
Use Space Heaters Strategically
Rather than cranking up central heat, use space heaters to warm the specific rooms you spend time in. Turn them off when you leave. Concentrate heat only where and when you need it, leaving unused rooms to stay chilly. Make sure space heaters are off when you’re asleep or away from home.
You can quickly insulate windows with plastic sheeting,window insulation film kits, or styrofoam panels fitted into the window frame. Sealing gaps around windows with caulk and weatherstripping helps too. This prevents precious indoor heat from leaking outside. Insulated curtains provide an extra layer against cold window glass. Open curtains to catch free solar warmth during the day.
Seal Air Leaks
Look for cracks and gaps around doors, windows, outlets, pipes, vents, and wires where heated indoor air can escape. Seal these with caulk, weatherstripping materials, spray foam, or other insulating products. This simple fix makes a huge difference in conserving warm air. Having fewer drafts means you don’t have to continually crank the heat.
Take Advantage of the Sun
Open all curtains and blinds during daylight hours, especially on sunny winter days, to harness some free solar warmth. Cook, do chores, and perform other everyday tasks during sunlit times versus at night to limit use of lights, oven, and other appliances that give off heat. Sit near sunny windows to soak up radiant warmth when the sun’s out.
Use Area Rugs
Carpeting helps keep floors warmer, but even area rugs can make a noticeable difference. The insulating layer traps heat rising from the floor so less escapes into the room. Use large area rugs in rooms you use most to enjoy cozier temperatures without turning up the thermostat.
Limit Use of Hot Water
Heating water sucks energy. Take shorter, cooler showers instead of long steaming baths. Only run full loads in the dishwasher and washing machine, and use cold water settings when possible. Fix any leaky faucets which waste hot water. Limit use of kitchen and bathroom exhaust fans which remove moist warm air from your home.
Using the oven and stovetop releases warmth into your kitchen. In extreme cold, focus on no-cook meals or use a microwave, instant pot, slow cooker, or other energy-efficient appliance instead of the oven. When you do cook, make double batches and freeze half to minimize future cooking needs. Thaw frozen items in the fridge overnight rather than microwaving.
Wrap Pipes and Water Heater
Ensuring pipes don’t freeze saves money on plumbing repairs. Wrap exposed pipes with foam pipe insulation. Cover the water heater as well, adjusting the temperature no higher than 120°F. This prevents the system from working overtime to replace escaped heat. Drain and shut off outdoor faucets and sprinkler systems.
Lower the Water Heater
Turn down your water heater’s thermostat to 120°F. This provides comfortable hot water while reducing the temperature at which the heater operates. For overnight or weekend getaways, turn the water heater off entirely since you won’t need it.
Adjust Humidifier Use
While a humidifier makes your home feel warmer, the moisture it releases makes heat dissipate faster, driving up energy consumption. Use a humidifier minimally or rely on other options like hanging damp towels to boost humidity. Don’t over-humidify to avoid moisture issues and mold growth.
Rather than blasting the heat, dress in layers to trap body warmth. Base layers that wick away sweat paired with sweaters, socks, slippers, and robes help maintain comfort without turning your home into a sauna. Use extra blankets and flannel sheets on beds too.
Get your blood pumping by keeping active inside during cold spells. Perform housework, walk in place during TV commercials, or do exercises like jumping jacks to stay toasty. Avoid long sedentary periods which cause your body temperature to drop. Cook, clean, and do chores during daylight to limit use of appliances at night.
Rather than heating the whole house, spend most time in one main room keeping each other warm. Cook, eat, and relax together in the family room, for example. Close doors to unused rooms. At night, go to bed together versus spreading out to different bedrooms. Work from home in the main living area instead of a basement office.
Alternative Warming Ideas
Instead of cranking the thermostat, try safer heating alternatives like a heated mattress pad, electric blanket, radiant wall panels, or portable radiant heater. Light the fireplace or wood stove more often if you have one. Cozy up under an electric throw blanket while reading or watching TV.
Monitor Energy Use
Track your utility usage during extreme cold to see when it peaks. Identify areas to target, like weekend mornings or evenings after work, when the thermostat tends to get nudged higher. Watch for high energy activities like running the clothes dryer or oven. Consider investing in an energy-monitoring system to pinpoint savings opportunities.
With extreme cold, laziness and waste can send your utility bills soaring. But a little preparation and conscious effort to conserve goes a long way. Follow these practical saving tips to stay cozy on a budget even when the temperatures plummet. Which money-saving measures do you rely on to survive winter’s freezing temps? Share your best frugal cold weather hacks!