When I bought my first home in July of 2016, the fact that it was located in an area of Massachusetts referred to as “the snowbelt” by locals didn’t deter me. After all, the sun was shining, winter seemed far away, and a little snow never kept me from getting outdoors for a walk or even a jog.
What I didn’t anticipate was the chilling temperatures that also came with this higher elevation, and the sobering effect they would have on my heating bills. I was fortunate enough to buy a house with two pellet stoves already installed, plus an oil heat option, but the impact on my wallet, especially during January and February, was a bit terrifying. So, I started to experiment with different ways to keep the house tolerably warm without sacrificing so much money on a monthly basis.
It’s a problem that homeowners and renters face every winter: How can you reduce your heating bills to a somewhat manageable monthly fee? With a particularly cold winter in the forecast this year, these 10 investments can help to make your heat go further, keep you warm with minimal electricity usage, and most importantly keep your heating bills under control.
1. Smart thermostats to give you temperature control from anywhere
If you’ve ever forgotten to turn the heat down before you left for work, only to realize you were heating an empty house all day, then you already know the value a smart thermostat can offer you. Smart thermostats give you remote control of your home’s heating system, so you can access and monitor your heat all day (and night) long through your smartphone.
The Emerson Sensi Wi-FI Smart Thermostat is our pick for the top smart thermostat of 2018. This thermostat offers great value and functionality that’s similar to the more expensive models. It is also compatible with Amazon Alexa, Google Home, and Apple Homekit/Siri. This unit’s seven-day scheduling means you can manage your home temperature’s ahead of time.
The ecobee4 Thermostat was our favorite option for homes with no C-wire, and with good reason. This thermostat’s separate temperature sensor means you can monitor temps in different rooms, giving you improved accuracy and the ability to keep an eye on the temperatures in your entire home. Compatible with Amazon Alexa, Google Home, and Apple Homekit/Siri, this versatile thermostat allows you to adjust temperatures remotely, so you won’t ever be wasting heat.
2. Smart vents to only heat the rooms you use
Have a pesky room that’s always too cold or too hot? Or worse, don’t want to heat a room that stands empty for most of the day? Smart vents can automatically take care of opening and closing the vents to those rooms, so you don’t have to remember or worry about that repetitive task. And you can manually adjust things right from your phone when you notice problematic areas. There aren't too many smart vent options out there yet, but we especially like the features these two have to offer.
Keen Home Smart Vents (pictured above) allow you to wirelessly control the temperatures inside various rooms with your phone. These smart vents are available in a variety of sizes to fit standard vents in your home, and Keen claims you only need 4-8 in an average-sized home for them to be effective at controlling your heating.
The Vent-Miser 91668 Programmable Energy Saving Vent doesn't connect to your phone or talk to other devices, but it does feature a timer that you can set to open and close on the day and time of your choice. It’s an ideal option if you're not the smart home type but still want to control the flow of heat in certain rooms aren’t in use on particular days or at particular times. It even features a low-battery alert so you’re never caught off-guard when it runs out of power.
3. Window and door sensors that alert you when heat is escaping
If you have kids, you know how easily they can forget to close a window or a door. In the winter, this can lead to valuable heat escaping your home in just minutes. With window and door sensors, you’ll be alerted to any window or door that’s been left open so you can fix the issue quickly, saving yourself from a spike in your heating bill.
The Hive Window or Door Sensor pairs with the Hive Hub for remote home management. You can use your phone to check and see if you remembered to close a window, and the door sensor can alert you to when your kids get home from school so you can adjust your temperatures appropriately if you've got a smart thermostat installed.
The Ring Alarm Door/Window Sensor pairs with the Ring alarm base station and allows you to monitor your home from any iOS or Android device. We're especially into the fact that the sensors mount to door or window frames without any tools, so you can be up and running in no time. If you don't have the base station already, the starter kit is $199 on Amazon and includes the base station, a contact sensor, a motion sensor, a keypad, and a range extender.
4. A device that can help you to identify where heat is escaping
Heating your home, only to have that heat escape through drafty windows or other invisible cracks and leaks means you’re throwing money away. Thankfully, there are heat imaging devices that can help you to identify just how heat is getting out, so you can seal up these areas and keep the heat you pay for inside the house.
The Koolertron Handheld Infrared Thermal Imaging Camera provides a high-resolution image with a highly precise measurement. This camera is easy to operate and you can choose from two color palettes for the best display. It's only got three reviews, but they're all glowing. One even suggested the device might be good at helping to find studs in the wall.
For a more affordable option, consider the highly rated Black + Decker TLD100 Thermal Leak Detector. This camera’s simple operation and digital readout take the guesswork out of finding where heat is escaping your home. It even comes with a five-step guide to fixing basic energy leaks in your home that will help you get started.
5. An energy monitoring system to track your usage
Home energy monitoring systems can help you to track just how much energy you’re using each month, so (with a little math) you can anticipate what your bills should be. You can also make adjustments to your heat usage to keep yourself from going over budget.
The Neurio Home Energy Monitor allows you to track your home’s energy use in real time on your phone or online. It even provides a forecast of your monthly utility bill so you’re not caught offguard.
The Aeotec Home Energy Meter Gen5 is another great option, especially if you're sticking to a budget. It comes with one monitor and two clamps, so you can track two separate electric loads. It claims to be 99% accurate and can track your energy usage in real time.
6. Stay cozy with heated blankets
When the temperatures get chilly at night, warm up under a heated blanket, rather than heating your entire home. Heated blankets can be great options for chilly rooms, fall nights when you’re trying to avoid turning the heat on, or to help you stay warm when you turn your heat down for the night.
The Sunbeam Microplush Heated Blanket with ComfortTech Controller is made of 100% polyester that is surprisingly and wonderfully soft. It features 10 warming settings so you won’t use any more electricity than you actually need. Its pre-heat technology ensures your bed is warm and waiting for you, making it perfect for chilly nights.
The Sunbeam Fleece Heated Electric Throw Blanket is soft and cozy, and its three warming settings give you control over how much heat you want. The three-hour auto off ensures that even if you forget about the blanket, you won’t waste too much electricity. Plus, this blanket is machine-washable and dryer safe.
7. Air vent boosters to evenly distribute heat
Make that one perpetually cold room a thing of the past with air vent boosters. These boosters work in conjunction with your heat system, pulling heat into the rooms that are always too cold. They can save you from having to turn up the heat on extra chilly days and can solve your uneven heating issues.
The Air Flow Breeze Ultra works with your central furnace system. It automatically operates when it senses a heat disparity between the rooms, then turns itself off again when its job is done.
The Suncourt Flush Fit Register Booster Fan is a low-voltage fan to save you electricity. It works automatically with forced air systems, and its quiet 3-speed, dual fans are powerful enough to pull extra air out of weak registers.
8. Space heaters for fast heat where and when you need it
Space heaters are versatile, and can be great options when you need a boost of heat to a room, or to yourself. From personal space heaters to larger units ideal for keeping a basement just above freezing, there are countless ways to put these heaters to use in your house so you don’t have to rely on your main heat source for smaller issues.
The DeLonghi HMP1500 Space Heater is ideal for portable use. Since it’s on wheels, you can bring it from room to room with you, so you don’t have to heat the entire house. It was the Editor’s Choice in Reviewed’s list of the best space heaters of 2018 thanks to its excellent performance in terms of heat production.
For personal use, the best affordable space heater fits the bill. This heater can give you just a little extra warmth when you’re working in a room that’s a bit cooler than the rest of the house (and it's small enough you can tuck it under your desk ast work too. Its low wattage won’t drain energy, making it an efficient choice.
9. Humidifiers to keep the air warm and moist
Moist air feels warmer and retains heat better than dry air, but heating your home dries out the air at the same time. Running a humidifier can help to return moisture to the air, keeping your home warmer and more comfortable.
The Vicks V745A Humidifier was deemed the best overall humidifier in Reviewed’s roundup of the best humidifiers of 2018. It has the capacity to run all night long, and you can even use it with medicinal oils for an added benefit if you catch a cold.
We also loved the Honeywell humidifier when we tested it. The built-in UV light is capable of killing up to 99.99% of microorganisms in water, so it’s a great choice if you’re concerned about keeping things clean.
10. An electric kettle for a quick, piping hot cup of tea
Sometimes, the quickest way to warm yourself up is to make a cup of tea. But you don't need to fire up the stove to boil water when you've got an electric kettle. We love the Cuisinart kettle because it's got an auto-shutoff function, and you can choose the exact temperature for different types of tea. Plus, it's a great way to speed up cooking hearty, warming meals like pasta and instant ramen.
Prices are accurate at the time of publication, but may change over time.