31 ways to reduce heating costs in winter and for less than $30. If properly used, their payback is less than 1 year.
Quilted window coverings. Most windows, including double pane have an r-value of 4 or less, whereas a modern insulated wall has an r-value of 15 or more. Quilted covers, or the like, can be made from emergency blankets, moving blankets, or fancier material, and will easily double the insulation on your windows.
Make use of solar heat. During sunny cold days, you can still get the equivalent of a wood burning stove going full blast from the sun beaming in large South-facing windows (in the northern hemisphere). If you don't have large South facing windows, you can still get some benefit from East and West facing windows, if the curtains are open when the sun comes in and closed when it is not. Opening and closing windows treatments is free heating. Although still new technology, you may be able to find automated window treatments connecting to your smart home system.
Close off large North facing windows (in the northern hemisphere). Windows to the north mean an r-4 wall in your coldest wind direction. If you have large windows in this direction see if you can block them off with extra thick window quilts, window shutters, furniture, or if the have a bad view, turn them into a highly insulated wall and hang a picture. You can make working window shutters for a 3'x5’ window for about 20 dollars and thick window treatments for less than 10.
Use a heated blanket or mat instead of a space heater. A space heater is about 7x more energy consumptive than an electric blanket, and much more drying. Therefore, on average a heated blanket running 10 hours a day for a month will cost 9 dollars to run, but a space heater running the same amount of time would cost $45. Electric blankets can be found for as little as $20, new.
Comfortable warm clothes. A yummy soft robe and slippers out a cardigan and tall socks might not seem like a reasonable purchase until you realize you can drop the temperature of your thermostat a degree or two, lowering your heating bill 1-3% for every degree.
Properly place furniture. Outside walls, especially next to windows, are the coldest places in a room. They are great for book shelves, media centers, and other things people don't tend to hang around. Place the furniture people hang out on in the center of the house, especially next to heating vents, where it is warmer. Put the heated fish tank by the couch, where they will compliment each other's heat needs and provide entertainment. These rearrangements can cut make your home more comfortable, lower your thermostat, and reduce your need for secondary secondary heaters.
Cook food instead of take out or delivery. An oven can produce 10,000 BTUs of heat per hour, and a cheaper dinner than eating out. 10,000 BTUs is about ⅙ the output need to heat a standard insulated 2,000 sqft home.
Section off heated spaces. Close the vents in the guest room or other rarely used spaces. Keep the doors shut. Use a piece of elastic to spring the door shut if people are prone to forgetting to do so. When asleep, lower the house temperature and use smaller heating apparatuses to heat yourself and/or the room. A piece of elastic and the nails from door to door frame costs about $3.
Install a programmable thermostat. A simple programmable thermostat costs about $20 and can dramatically lower your heat bill by only heating to comfortable when you need it to.
Set your thermostat to only vary about 10 degrees. Over a ten degree variation takes more energy than it saves.
Insure tight gaskets around your doors and windows. Gaskets are less than $10 and stop or slow the breeze around doors. Heat loss around poorly gasketed doors has-been estimated to 20%.
Have a family sleepover. Most little kids don't want to sleep alone anyway and many cultures have a family bed and shared rooms. On especially cold nights, have a sleepover for your family in one room. This can include the dogs and cats. You can drastically reduce your overnight heating costs by only heating one room with many people.
Use lanolin and other high temperature body oils as moisturizers. High temperature oils become solid below room temperature, which makes them insulate. They become liquid above room temperature, cooling your skin. Using these to keep your skin moist in the dry, chapping winter air can make you just that much more comfortable and costs the same as conventional skin moisturizers.
Exercise at home. Heating yourself and reducing your need for additional heat.
Have friends over. With more people there's more body heat and more activity, meaning an easier time for your heating system.
Visit local hang outs so you can lower your thermostat ten degree while you're gone.
Block an unused fireplace. Even a fireplace with a damper can suck hot air out of your house. Closing it off with the same vigorousness you would other walls and ceilings helps reduce heat loss. Remember to clear the block if you want to start a fire.
Eat healthy, take care of yourself. Getting sick often means you need to turn up the heat. Reduce unnecessary exposure to illness and take care of your body. This is usually the cheaper option for medical expenses too.
Place a windbreak on the winter wind side of your house made of cheap fast growing trees. It will take them a while to grow, but in 5 years you will notice a difference. Fast growing bare root trees can be purchased for as little as $1 a piece. Insure they are far enough away from things that can be destroyed by roots.
Fill insulation gaps. Although many gaps are in hard to reach places and can be pricey, sometimes the gaps are easy to find and fix, like between the first floor and the walls of an unfinished basement, or around plugs on outer walls and window caulking. The materials vary, depending on the hole your pluging but usually way under $30. Plugging these holes can be more important than thickening wall insulation.
Adjust your furnace intake location with a bench. Sometimes the intake for the forced air unit is located by a window, pulling in cold air from outside rather than cycling the warm air from inside. A bench is sometimes all that is needed to direct the air intake towards the room, instead of the window, behind a curtain. A bench can be made out of a 2”x6” piece of wood cut in three pieces and attached with 6 long screws, and a 1”x2” for stability. Doing this project yourself can cost about $20.
Insulate ducting from an unfinished, rarely used basement. A roll of insulation can cost about $15.
Use thermal masses in areas with sunny days and frigid nights. A thermal mass is something heavy that absorbs a lot of heat before it changes temperature and releases a lot of heat before it changes temperature. Basically, a heat battery. They are usually rock, clay, cobb or cement. But can also be a house plant. Be sure your floor is capable of holding the weight of the thermal mass, as some are quite heavy. Set the thermal mass where it will get the most sun and then let it do its job.
Cover or pull in your window unit air conditioner. Air conditioners leak air. Covering them or pulling them in reduces that.
Protect air vents from wind. Some crawl spaces have air vents. These keep the space from building up moisture, but can also cause cold air to penetrate under a house and seep in, especially when exposed to wind. At ground level these can be blocked from wind with a stack of firewood, a big rock, or some evergreen bushes.
Avoid using the bathroom vent fan except when taking a long shower. Bathroom vents suck hot air right out of the house, exactly what you don't need in winter. For stinky situations, try a scented candle in a fire safe location.
Use heated lighting for your sitting areas during winter. They cost as much to run as a heated blanket, but give the feel of a nice summer's day. The bulb costs about $8, can fit some regular lamps or a $10 heat lamp fixture.
Take winter walks. Human bodies can adapt a little, so experiencing winter can help you be comfortable with less heat.
Make a thermos full of warm drink. With a short spurt of heating you have a hand warmer and body warmer. This is great for needing to warm up after the walk. Rather than hiking up the thermostat to defrost you, drink up.
Move to a smaller house or take on some roommates. Along with saving money on property costs and maintenance, smaller spaces are cheaper to heat.
Strategically place blankets. A warm blanket or two on a couch, several more on your need, one in the recliner can help keep you cozy without raising the thermostat.
When you save on heating you save on money. Even if you can only do one change listed here the first year, you'll be able to do two the next year and four the following because these projects, if done with thought for your situation, can pay for themselves in very little time, leading you to bigger projects with higher pay offs sooner than you thought. Spread the word.