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Brrr . . . it's cold out there! As winter temperatures continue to drop, your heating and electricity bills may be going through the roof. Stay warm on the cheap with a few strategic steps.

ercot, cheap ways to heat your home, home heating, electricity billsFeeling winter's chill? Conserve energy, save money and stay warm with these practical tips. Photo: AP

Punxsutawney Phil the groundhog may have proclaimed that spring isn't far away, but the huge winter blizzards paralyzing much of the United States beg to differ. Take for example the residents of Texas, where icy conditions and frigid temperatures forced power providers to implement rolling blackouts statewide.

This after a cold snap shut down 7,000 megawatts of power generators, and caused the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT), the state's power grid operator, to declare an energy emergency and beg customers to conserve energy.

While these power outages most likely will lead to a great deal of unhappy customers, it's an opportune time to learn strategic steps that will help you save energy (and lower your utility bills) during the cold winter months. Even with most of the country buried in snow and temperatures hovering around freezing, you can still reduce your energy consumption and keep your home warm. Here are a few energy conservation measures that are easy to implement:

- Open blinds and curtains during the daytime to take advantage of the sun's natural heat. Close them at night to reduce the chill and keep heat inside your home. You can also use insulated curtains, which are are specifically designed to keep warmth in and the cold out.

- Use a humidifier. Humidity holds heat, so raising the humidity level in your home will increase the temperature of your home by as much as 15 degrees. For a DIY humidifier, simmer water on the stove. Or after taking a bath, leave the warm water in the tub.

ercot, cheap ways to heat your home, home heating, electricity bills

- Lower thermostats to 68 degrees or less. When you are asleep or out of the house, turning your thermostat down 10-15 degrees for eight hours can shave 10 percent off your winter heating bills. There's no need to waste heat when you're not at home!

ercot, cheap ways to heat your home, home heating, electricity billsPhoto: CasaSugar

- Weatherproof your home. Seal up the drafty openings in your windows and doors with weatherstripping or draft blockers. Attach door sweeps to the bottom of your doors to create an air block between the door and threshold.

ercot, cheap ways to heat your home, home heating, electricity billsPhoto: Getty Images

- Make your fireplace more efficient. Wood-burning fireplaces do more for aesthetics than they do for actually heating your home. A significant amount of your home's heat is lost through the chimney, along with your hard-earned money. Maximize the efficiency of a fireplace by installing glass doors, which will help prevent heated air from escaping through the chimney. Make sure the chimney damper is closed when the fireplace is not in use. Also, installing a fireback in your fireplace will reflect heat into the room (instead of sending it up the chimney).

ercot, cheap ways to heat your home, home heating, electricity billsLayering up is an inexpensive way to stay warm during the winter months. Photo: NY Times

- Layer up. The best way to stay warm is to dress warm, even if that means wearing a hat inside. A great deal of body heat escapes through the head, so a hat will go a long way in keeping you cozy. Also employ undershirts in your wardrobe ensembles, as well as sweatshirts over long-sleeve shirts, and wear wool socks to keep your feet warm. Throw on a blanket, or even a better a Snuggie. According to the NY Times, one out of every 12 Americans owns a Snuggie; join this toasty, warm crowd.

- Use rugs and carpets in your home. Rooms with wall-to-wall carpeting have better insulation. If you have hardwood floors, use area rugs in the winter to prevent cold air from seeping up through the floor. Also, place dark-colored rugs in sunny areas of your house to absorb more of the sun's heat.

- Close unused rooms. Instead of heating rooms you rarely use, closed off these rooms and shut the heater vents located in them.

- Cuddle up. Baby, it's cold outside, so invite everyone over to stay warm. Body heat is nature's radiator, and the more people in your home the warmer it will be.

Home Heating Mistakes
How to Make Your Fireplace More Efficient (Lifehacker)
7 Ways to Stay Warm on the Cheap (Wisebread)

  • Mark Tyrol

    How To Reduce Your Energy Bills / Energy Conservation Begins at Home

    Imagine leaving a window open all winter long -- the heat loss, cold drafts and wasted energy! If your home has a folding attic stair, a whole house fan or AC Return, a fireplace or a clothes dryer, that may be just what is occurring in your home every day.

    These often overlooked sources of energy loss and air leakage can cause heat and AC to pour out and the outside air to rush in -- costing you higher energy bills.

    But what can you do about the four largest “holes” in your home -- the folding attic stair, the whole house fan or AC return, the fireplace, and the clothes dryer?

    To learn more visit

    Mark D. Tyrol is a Professional Engineer specializing in cause and origin of construction defects. He developed several residential energy conservation products including an attic stair cover and an attic access door. Battic Door is the US distributor of the fireplace plug.

  • Vincent

    I am appalled to learn the fact you shared about 1 out of 12 Americans owning a Snuggie. I can't believe people would waste so much money on something so absolutely ugly. I'm all for layering and staying warm like that to save on heating costs, but spending the money on a Snuggie could definitely be better spent - take HtTp:// to heart - they have coupons and lots of free stuff this Winter.

  • David

    1) DON'T add a humidifier if you're short on heating energy (power outage, etc.). Evaporating water to make humidity rise uses energy, making temperatures drop (just like a swamp cooler).

    2) DON'T keep your blinds and curtains open during the daytime unless the sun is shining strong and your windows are relatively new. The heat loss through the glass will be far greater than the energy gain from the sun. If your windows "sweat" in cold weather, they're energy wasters.

  • N J Gill

    set your dishwasher to "air dry" and open it as soon as the cycle finishes to release clouds of humidifying steam into the air

  • 4 Comments / 1 Pages

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