If you’ve opened a utility bill recently and been shocked at the amount, you’re not alone. The U.S. Energy Information Administration estimated that heating costs would rise by as much as 28% in 2023, depending on how you heat your home. Many homeowners struggle with unexpectedly high heating costs, often unaware of the underlying reasons. Multiple issues can drain your wallet, from poor insulation to an outdated HVAC system. Learn the reasons behind your soaring bills and how to implement practical strategies, like installing a single zone mini split, to lower energy costs.
1. Poor Insulation
Insulation is your home’s thermal shield, capturing warmth during chilly weather, repelling it when it’s hot and preventing unwanted temperature fluctuations. When your home insulation is compromised or insufficient, your heating system compensates by working harder, causing your bills to soar.
Adding insulation to floors, crawl spaces and attics can save up to 20% on heating and cooling costs. Choose insulation based on your region’s climate and your home’s needs to maximize energy savings. Fiberglass, cellulose and spray foam are popular choices. Consult a professional to determine the best type and R-value (insulation’s thermal resistance) for optimal energy efficiency.
2. Thermostat Malfunctions
Your thermostat controls your home’s interior temperature, ensuring you stay comfortable all winter long. However, when it malfunctions, it can signal your heating system to run when unnecessary, wasting energy and inflating bills. A faulty thermostat may not accurately read the room’s temperature or struggle to communicate with the heating unit.
You can check if your thermostat is operating correctly using a separate room thermometer to measure the room’s temperature. Compare this reading with the temperature displayed on your thermostat. A significant difference might indicate a malfunction. You can also use a response test. Adjust the temperature setting on your thermostat by a few degrees. Your heating or cooling system should respond within a few minutes. If there’s no change, there might be an issue.
You may be able to restore the malfunctioning thermostat by resetting it. Many modern thermostats have a reset button or option. Refer to the user manual and follow the reset instructions. If your thermostat is outdated, it might not be compatible with newer heating and cooling systems. Consider updating to a newer model or a Smart thermostat, especially if yours is several years old. A smart thermostat can save you up to 8% on heating and cooling costs annually.
3. Outdated Heating System
As heating systems age, they become less efficient, struggling to maintain desired temperatures and consume more energy. Components wear out, technology becomes outdated and performance declines. This inefficiency not only leads to discomfort but also to higher energy bills.
Upgrading to a mini split HVAC system can reduce your heating bills by giving you more control over the areas of your home that you heat and cool. A two zone mini split enables you to heat two areas of your house independently. For example, if you are using the living room but not the bedrooms, you can switch off the unit in the bedrooms to save energy. For even more savings, consider a DIY installation. Unlike central heating systems that require extensive renovations and ductwork, a MRCOOL mini split requires minimal construction work to install. And because it has pre-loaded refrigerant lines, you can install the system quickly and easily yourself.
4. Using the Heater More Than Necessary
Recent data suggests that the average American household in a cold climate keeps their home at a toasty 70°F. An over-reliance on your home’s heating system can drive up your energy bills, and lowering your thermostat by 7° to 10°F for eight hours a day (while sleeping or out of the house) can save you up to 10% on your heating bills.
Other simple ways to reduce your reliance on heating include:
- Layer up: Wear warmer clothing indoors, like a cozy sweater or sweatpants, instead of turning up the heat. Add a few throw blankets to your sofa or armchair to cover yourself while you relax. Wear slippers and thick socks.
- Use ceiling fans: Install a high-quality Big Ass Fan and reverse the fan’s direction. By switching the fan’s direction to clockwise, it pushes warm air that rises to the ceiling back down into the room. This ensures better circulation of heated air, allowing you to potentially lower the thermostat and save on heating costs.
- Seal gaps and leaks: Check for drafts around windows, doors and other openings. Use weather stripping, caulk or draft stoppers to seal these gaps, preventing cold air from entering and warm air from escaping.
- Maintain vents: If you have a central ducted heating system, ensure the vents are not obstructed by furniture or curtains. A clear path allows for optimal heat circulation.
5. High Utility Rates
While your habits or HVAC system are partially responsible for high heating bills, the actual reason can often be utility companies raising their rates. This can be attributed to a variety of reasons: utility companies might be investing in infrastructure upgrades, leading to short-term rate hikes or there could be increased operational costs due to rising fuel prices, maintenance or labor.
If you live in an area with multiple utility providers or a deregulated energy market, it’s important to compare rates so you can find a better deal with another company. Websites like Power Switch are ideal for quickly comparing rates in your local area. In some cases, you can negotiate rates, particularly if you’re thinking of switching providers; utility companies may provide a better rate to keep you onboard.
Getting an energy audit for your home can also be beneficial to identify potential savings areas, which can help counteract higher utility costs. If your rates continue to rise, consider exploring alternative energy sources, such as solar panels, which could lead to significant long-term savings.
Keep Your Home Warm Without Breaking the Bank
As winter approaches and you seek warmth and comfort in your home, it’s essential to be proactive about your heating choices. By understanding the various factors that impact your utility and making strategic decisions, you can ensure a cozy living space without overspending.