Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Freeze Your Butt Off to Save on Your Winter Heating Bills?

Author: Nick
Category: Money
Topics: ,

save money on winter heating without feeling like this

Packed snugly in a recent local utility mailing—somewhere between the return envelope and that electrical extortion invoice our supplier calls a “bill”—was their monthly newsletter offering sound advice to help keep us safe and save us money during the upcoming winter. (Sidebar: I’ve always wondered why utility companies send newsletters with tips for saving you money on your utilities; shouldn’t they send you tips for spending more on utilities or perhaps saving money on groceries and health care so you can spend more on gas and electric?) One of the tips in this newsletter was a little startling because it runs contrary to every American home in which I’ve ever set foot:

Set your thermostat at 68 degrees during the day and 60 degrees at night, if health permits.

First, let’s look at the 68 degrees during the day recommendation. Thinking of the homes of random family and friends, here’s a sampling of the various daytime winter temperatures I recall seeing on their thermostats:

  • 75 degrees
  • 74 degrees
  • 72 degrees
  • 72 degrees
  • 72 degrees

I cannot ever recall seeing any thermostat in any home set at below 70 degrees during winter days. The only exception is our own home whose thermostat currently sits at a cozy and warm 68 degrees. People who enter our house when it’s 68 often complain that it’s chilly. On the other hand, when we enter someone’s house at 75 degrees, it feels like a sauna.

So if you’re currently running your home at 70+ degrees in the winter, try dropping it a degree each week and be amazed at how well your body can adjust to the temperature change.

Now how about that 60 degrees at night recommendation? Once again, let’s look at a random sample of nighttime winter temperatures from the homes of friends and family.

  • 75 degrees
  • 74 degrees
  • 72 degrees
  • 72 degrees
  • 72 degrees

Holy crap, it’s the same list from above! For some inexplicable reason, these five households need their 70+ degrees while their bodies are in bed, asleep, inactive, totally unconscious. My utility’s advice to drastically lower the thermostat setting at night is a good one; it can save a boatload of money on heat your body doesn’t even need.

I’ll admit that the 60-degree recommendation surprised even us. We keep our nighttime thermostat set at around 64 during the winter months. We find that any colder than that is enough to wake us in the middle of the night.

If you’re a member of the 72 Degrees At All Times Club, you might be wondering how we survive in consistently sub-70-degree temperatures. It’s pretty simple, actually.

  • Lots of clothes. It’s not hard to pile on an extra layer or two. Each one seems to allow us to tolerate an extra degree or two below 70.
  • Mini heaters. We have a portable electric heater that we can set in whatever room we’re currently occupying. That way, we can keep that room as toasty as we like without wasting heat in other rooms. It’s fuel-free, simple to operate, weighs just a couple of pounds, and costs just pennies an hour to run.
  • Ceiling fans in reverse. Over the summer, we equipped our four most-used rooms with ceiling fans to keep rooms cool. When operated in reverse (clockwise motion), the fan blows the hot air that would otherwise rise to the ceiling and out the roof back down to the floor. Yes, it really works and can help maintain a room temperature a lot longer.
  • Smart thermostat use. While we have a programmable thermostat, we typically operate it manually, setting the temperature at 68 when we’re home and awake or 64 if we’re away or asleep. If you have a predictable schedule, you can use a programmable thermostat to boost the temperature just before you wake or return home from work.
  • Lots of cuddling. There’s nothing cozier in the winter than a warm body, and keeping one really close to you ensures you two are exchanging heat with each other rather than losing it to the air. Just be sure to ask before cuddling someone, though they’ll usually agree once you give a detailed presentation on the fuel savings cuddling can provide.

Now it’s your turn to provide your wintertime stats. At what temperature do you set your thermostat during winter days and nights?

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