Home oil furnace
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The time of year has arrived where the air is getting nippy and there is a definitive chill in the air. As winter rapidly approaches and temperatures drop even further, you might be dreading the inevitability that you'll need to turn up the thermostat sooner than later, as home heating costs soaring in recent years. 1 No matter what method of energy you rely upon to heat your home, chances are you've seen a some sort of increase in your heating expenses.

Despite the rising expense of heating your home, there are a few ways you can try to reduce energy costs. Finding ways to budget monies towards heating expenses can help ease that burden. Two of the best ways to budget for your home heating costs is to be proactive in finding methods to reduce the amount of fuel energy you use and to plan your finances ahead.

Reduce Heating Costs

Inspect Your Windows

Windows are a common money pit for wasted heat and it's a good idea to check your windows to see if there are leaks, drafts or gaps. Drafty windows will cause your thermostat to kick on more frequently. Replacing your old windows with higher efficiency ones is a significant expense upfront (there are ways to save!), but over the course of time replacement will be more cost-efficient and reduce the amount of heat that is lost.

If window replacements are too much of an expense, explore other ways you can eliminate drafts. Covering your windows with plastic is an inexpensive way to potentially lower heating costs and keep that cold blowing wind outside of your home instead of letting it in.


Wind Chime blowing during a snowstorm
Credit: Leigh Goessl

Drafty windows can let cold winter winds insde your home

Keep Your Furnace or Heating Element Clean

Doing annual maintenance with cleanings and new filters reduces the chance of your system from needing any heating system repair work being done and keeps it running efficiently. It ensures you have a clean running system that isn't running more frequently due to clogged or dirty elements.

Set Your Thermostat on a Timer

Letting your heat run constantly all day if no one is home massively increases the dollars you will be spending on heating costs. Plan to have your heat kick on at intervals and specified times just prior to your arrival home. Many people lower the temperature at night and during the hours of the day they are out of the home. Digital thermostats are also a cost-saving option and becoming more standard these days.

Plan Ahead

Look into Budget Plans

Many heating companies offer plans to help you mitigate costs in a way that works the best for your household budget. Ask your energy provider what kind of payment plans they offer. For instance, if oil is your source of fuel, many oil companies will put a cap on the price per gallon in exchange for a guaranteed contract and a small nominal fee. Another common plan is to purchase the anticipated number of gallons ahead of time at a discounted rate. This is costly upfront, but the good news is you don't have to worry about coming up with money to pay for fuel over the winter. When I lived in the northeastern U.S. I used to pay mine in October and had a guaranteed set price and the payment was out of the way.

A Naval Support Activity Mid-South Sailor takes a moment to decide which credit card to useCredit: U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class LaTunya Howard / Public Domain

Monthly Payment Plans

Some energy companies give the option of monthly payment plans. What they typically do is average your annual energy use and then put you on a monthly plan. The plus side is that you will have a consistent payment throughout the year, but the downside is if you go over that amount you'll have to pay more at a specified time of the year to square up.

Tax Returns

Every year consider taking a portion of your tax return and put it aside to use towards heating costs. If you consciously budget this money post tax time, regardless of which way you choose to pay your heating expense, budget plans, payment plans or on an as-need basis, the money will already be put aside.

Home heating costs are expenses that are likely cause financial stress during the colder months, but by finding ways to reduce energy usage and to plan ahead, it makes budgeting for those chilly days much easier to manage.