Buildings Old Gravity Furnace

Published on September 20th, 2012 | by Dan Thiede, CERTs


Want to Save Energy on Heating Costs this Winter? Here Are 10 Things You Can Do

September 20th, 2012 by  

If you’re anything like my family, this cool weather gets you thinking about what you can do to save energy heating your home this fall and winter. Below are 10 things you can do in the next couple months (if you haven’t already).

Old Gravity Furnace

Replacing your old furnace (like this gravity or ‘octopus’ furnace) is just one of many things you can do to save energy — and money — on winter heating costs.

Things you should do now to save on heating costs:

  • Change your furnace filter every 1-2 months
  • Switch furnace fan setting from continuous to auto
  • Hire a professional to do a Home Performance Audit of your home
  • Install weather-stripping or caulk leaky doors and windows and install gaskets behind outlet covers
  • Air seal and insulate your house to recommended levels
  • When your fireplace is not in use, be sure the damper is closed
  • Install a programmable thermostat (and program it—see notes below)
  • If you have an old, inefficient furnace, install a new ENERGY STAR furnace

Things you should do when it gets colder:

  • Adjust thermostat from 68˚ to 60˚ at night and during the day when no one is home
  • Grab a sweater instead of turning up the heat


After you take actions: Be sure to take part in the Family Energy FACE-OFF to join a team and contribute your actions to the Mill Pond Minimizers or Prairie Penny Pinchers! The FACE-OFF is a contest running from Earth Day 2012 to Earth Day 2013 where two Minnesota families are facing off to see who can save more energy, and they need YOUR help!

Meet the competing families, see what they’re doing to save energy and money in their homes, then join a team to contribute your actions at! Watch this video to learn more:


CERTs Family Energy FACE-OFF 
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About the Author

is the Communications Coordinator for the Clean Energy Resource Teams, or CERTs, at the University of Minnesota. CERTs works to advance the adoption of renewable energy and energy efficiency projects in communities across Minnesota by helping people learn, connect, and act.

  • djthiede

    Thanks for all of these tips, everyone! This is a nice discussion. The reason that we stay pretty safe on the recommended temperatures is that the majority of people think more about comfort than they do about their environmental impact or even energy costs, so suggesting a modest decrease in winter thermostat temps keeps them comfortable but also has a nice impact on their pocketbook and their emissions. People can (and obviously do) go lower than that–I know I certainly look forward to down comforter/slipper/flannel/stocking cap season!

  • Thank you for sharing these helpful tips, Dan! As much as you can, you really should just wear warm and thick clothes to save you cost on bills.

  • Bob_Wallace

    Living with wood heat and no thermostat…

    Check the chimney pipe to make sure everything is nice and tight.
    Clean the pipe.
    Fill the woodshed.

    My “thermostat” rule?

    If I get up in the morning and it’s 50 or warmer and it’s going to be a sunny day I put a light jacket on over the top of the sweatshirt I’m already wearing, make a nice hot cup of coffee, and settle into a sunny window.

    If not, I build a fire. Not sunny, that is. I’ve never seen my house get below 50 inside. Perhaps if I were to be gone for a few days in the coldest part of the year…

    When you cut, split, haul and stack your own wood it makes you a bit slower to “turn on the heat”. But, man, do I love wood heat. It warms you all the way through in a way that central air heating just doesn’t do.

    • Anne

      Wood stove? No thanks. Particle emissions and it smells bad. You might live in a rural area, but in Europe’s densely populated cities, I hope they don’t follow your advise.

      • Bob_Wallace

        Yes, wood fires do create some emissions problems, but I do live in a very rural area and the storm-dropped wood I use to heat my house removes fuel from the forest floor thus reducing the likelihood of a forest fire killing mature trees.

        Wood heat wouldn’t make sense in densely populated urban areas, but living in those places don’t make sense to me… ;o)

  • jonesey jonesey

    68 degrees? Are you made of money? We set ours to 64 when we’re home and let it bottom out at 55 at night. What a great reason to wear a comfy wool sweater and some nice fleecy trousers. And puffy slippers! And snuggling with your honey under a blanket! Hooray!

    A nice warm comforter for your bed pays for itself in a few months of letting the house cool down at night. And that programmable thermostat will have the house nice and cozy for you when you get out of bed. Just don’t let it get so cold that your pipes freeze….

  • djthiede

    Thanks for the tips, Anne–these are great!

  • Anne

    The last item on the list should actually be the first one. Nothing beats the EROI of a sweater.

    Additionally, the following tips:
    – Close as many radiators as you can, like in unused bedrooms or the entrance hall (keep the doors to those rooms closed).
    – During the night, shut off the heater entirely by lowering the thermostat all the way down to 5 C
    – In the morning, if your only business is to take a shower, grab a breakfast and leave for work, don’t heat up the house. Yes, programmable thermostats invite you to do just that. Resist the urge, you pump energy into your house and then leave it to leak away after you have left.
    – If you find the bathroom to be too chilly, install an infrared radiator.

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