Simple ways to save on home heating this winter

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It’s mid-October as I write this, and I still haven’t turned on the oil furnace to heat my home. With the skyrocketing price of oil this season, I am lucky my home is a passive-solar design from the early 80s, with a wide expanse of south facing windows to garner heat from the sun and a large thermal mass in the concrete slab to keep the house cool in early summer and warm in late fall. Add super-insulating triple-pane windows, good insulation and a wood stove insert in my center-column chimney to burn the 90-foot oak tree that fell in my backyard two years ago, and we hope not to burn oil until Halloween. We’ll no doubt need to snuggle up in our warmest hoodies and throws.

Of course, not everyone has an energy-crisis designed home, the resources to afford expensive windows and insulation and the abundance of wood that my one-acre lot regularly generates. Most everyone will be facing large increases in the cost of heating their home this year, so the Conservation Commission thought it would be worthwhile to discuss how to save money and be more comfortable in your home this winter.

Let’s start with simple measures that are easy and cost little to nothing. The first step is to turn down your thermostat at night and when you are not home. You may wonder if this really saves money, because it makes your furnace crank up to full blast twice a day. But the physics are clear—heating costs are directly related to the difference in temperature between inside and outside. In fact, The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) estimates that turning down your thermostat 7 to 10 degrees for eight hours per day, at night for example, can save 10 percent on your annual heating expenses. If no one is home during the typical workday, you could add another 10 percent savings. This can easily be achieved by manually adjusting old-fashioned thermostats, with a common programmable thermostat ($25-$50), or a new-fangled smart thermostat ($50-$200) which can be adjusted through an app on your phone and can “learn” the routine and habits of your home. If a smart thermostat is of interest, be sure to check out the substantial discounts available through Eversource at

Another easy action is to take full advantage of the sun. Open blinds and curtains on south-facing windows during the day to maximize heat gain from the sun, and close them at night, especially on clear nights when the black frigidness of space sucks heat from your home with surprising effectiveness. Insulating curtains and solid window shades are effective at reducing drafts around windows and sliding doors, but be sure to feel for major leaks that can be plugged with simple weatherstripping available at a hardware store. Make sure windows and doors are locked to make them as airtight as possible.

If you have a forced-air heating and cooling system, be sure to keep the air filter clean, which, according to the DOE, can save up to 15 percent annually. It is generally recommended to change filters at least every three months, more frequently in the heart of the winter.

If there are unused rooms in your home, turn down the heat in those rooms by closing air registers or reducing radiator flow. Another tip is to use ceiling fans on slow speed, and reversed direction if available, to bring warm air down where it’s needed, especially for cathedral ceilings. And finally, be sure that fireplace dampers are closed when not in use, otherwise your expensive warm air will escape out the chimney.

If you want professional advice, check out the Home Energy Solutions program offered through both Eversource and Connecticut Natural Gas with the EnergizeCT program ( For a cost of $50 (potentially $0 for income-eligible participants), you get a complete home energy assessment and on-the-spot solutions such as simple air sealing to stop leaks. According to an Eversource representative, “Both of these programs focus on weatherization solutions like air sealing and access to incentives for insulation. Eversource offers rebates that cover up to 75 percent of approved insulation projects through HES and 100 percent for income eligible customers.” This assessment is also a great starting point for tackling larger, more impactful measures like enhancing wall and attic insulation and replacing old heating systems with new energy-efficient solutions.

It’s cloudy, cold and wet today as I finish this article. My college student is home for the weekend, and I begrudgingly turned on the heat to a modest 68 degrees to keep her from shivering. Oh well, maybe I’ll make it to November next year.

Kent McCord is a member of the Granby Conservation Commission.