This is the first post in our Beginner’s Guide to Heating Bills.
Heating bills vary greatly depending on house size, climate, insulation, fuel choice and fuel prices. But it is easy enough to find some averages.
In the graph above we have five typical winter fuel bills, converted to US dollars at average exchange rates over the last winter. These costs may include a little energy used for hot water or cooking, but they are mostly about heat.
Winter Fuel Bills Compared
In the winter of 2012/13 the average American home using natural gas spent $598 on fuel over the heating period.
British homes using natural gas spent £607 ($956) over the same period, while German homes using gas spent €770 ($994).
The American homes actually used more, because they have big houses, but the bill works out lower because they also have very cheap natural gas prices.
US homes using oil (mostly in the North East) have huge heating bills, both because they use a lot of energy and because fuel oil is expensive, as we will see later in this series.
What exactly do we pay for?
Before moving on to fun stuff, like energy use and heat costs, it is worth understanding why we have heating bills.
Although I pay my heating bill each year to keep my home comfortable, the thing that really costs me is heat loss. If my home was perfectly insulated there would be no heating bill. In fact my body heat and appliances would gradually bake the place.
Natural gas, electricity, oil and wood are used to replace heat that is lost via convection (through surfaces) and ventilation (air leakage). That’s what I pay for.
Ways to reduce the heating bill
Regardless of where you live and what energy source you use, you can take the same steps to reduce the heating bill. This is because the one common denominator is heating loss. So its a matter of generating the heat, and keeping it in. I put down 10 tips for you.
1. Install energy efficient windows and doors.
One way to reduce your heating bills is to install energy-efficient windows and doors. These windows and doors are made with materials that help keep heat in your home and prevent heat from escaping. Energy-efficient windows and doors can also help reduce noise from outside.
2. Use weatherstripping and caulking to seal air leaks.
Another way to reduce your heating bills is to use weatherstripping and caulking to seal air leaks. Air leaks can occur around doors and windows. Sealing these air leaks can help keep heat in your home and prevent heat from escaping.
3. Install insulation in the walls, floors, and attic.
Another way to reduce your heating bills is to install insulation in the walls, floors, and attic. Insulation helps keep heat in your home and prevent heat from escaping.
4. Set the thermostat to 68 degrees Fahrenheit in the winter.
Another way to reduce your heating bills is to set the thermostat to 68 degrees Fahrenheit in the winter. This will help keep your home warm without using too much energy.
5. Use a programmable thermostat to automatically lower the temperature when you are away from home or asleep.
Another way to reduce your heating bills is to install a programmable thermostat, which will automatically lower the temperature when you are away from home or asleep. A programmable thermostat can save you up to $180 per year in energy costs, so it is a wise investment for any homeowner.
6. Turn off unused lights and appliances.
You can also save on your energy bill by turning off unused lights and appliances. If you are not using an appliance, be sure to unplug it. Even when they are turned off, many appliances still use energy.
7. Use energy efficient light bulbs.
One of the easiest ways to save energy and money is to switch to energy efficient light bulbs. These bulbs use less energy and last longer than traditional incandescent bulbs.
8. Wash clothes in cold water.
Another way to save energy is to wash your clothes in cold water. Washing your clothes in cold water can save you up to $60 per year in energy costs.
9. Line dry clothes when possible.
Hanging your clothes to dry is a great way to save energy. Line drying your clothes can save you up to $100 per year in energy costs.
10. Reduce the use of heat-generating appliances such as the oven and stove.
Using the oven and stove can generate a lot of heat, so it’s best to use them sparingly. When you do use them, try to use the stovetop instead of the oven, and use a pan with a lid to trap the heat.
I founded Shrink That Footprint in November 2012, after a long period of research. For many years I have calculated, studied and worked with carbon footprints, and Shrink That Footprint is that interest come to life.
I have an Economics degree from UCL, have previously worked as an energy efficiency analyst at BNEF and continue to work as a strategy consultant at Maneas. I have consulted to numerous clients in energy and finance, as well as the World Economic Forum.
When I’m not crunching carbon footprints you’ll often find me helping my two year old son tend to the tomatoes, salad and peppers growing in our upcycled greenhouse.