Some people dread the coming of winter because of the cold, stormy weather. Other people dread the coming of winter because they have to work in the above-described weather. But many people this year will be dreading the cold winter because they know how expensive home heating is and they simply can't afford it. Here are some ways to keep your family warm without breaking the bank this winter:
Check with your local community service agency or electricity provider to see if there are any free winterization programs available in your community. These programs often target the elderly and low income and can provide everything from insulating strips for your doors, to plastic to seal out the drafts around your windows, to a full-fledged insulation package that adds extra insulation to your attic and wall spaces.
Do like the old timers used to do before central heating was common. They would open the curtains to let in sunshine during the day and then close the curtains as soon as the sun went down to keep the heat in. They would gather in one heated room to watch TV, sew, and read together instead of each person going to their own rooms, thus limiting the number of rooms that needed to be heated. They would drape heavy blankets over the windows to keep drafts out, and they would also drape heavy blankets over doorways that lead out of the heated room in an effort to keep the heat contained to that room.
Check with your community service agency to see if there are programs available to pay your utilities during the winter. Some communities offer programs where if you are a senior citizen or qualify as low income they will pay one month's worth of your electric or gas bill in order to help you keep your heat on during the winter.
If you are a veteran, check with your local veteran's services program to see if they provide for similar assistance programs that cover everything from your utility bills to winterization services for your home.
Check to see if your electric or gas utility offers a "budget" payment plan. Instead of sky-high bills in the winter and miniscule bills in the summer, the utility company will average out your usage over the course of a year and you pay a set price each month so that your budget won't take a hit from high swings during the coldest months.
Use a wood stove or fireplace to heat the main room of your house and have everyone gather there. Fireplaces are much less efficient than wood stoves, but both can be an option if you have no other source of heat.
If you have a wood stove or fireplace, check with your local national forest office for free or low cost permits that allow you to go and harvest your own firewood at no charge. Please note that this can be dangerous if you have never chopped up your own wood so go with a knowledgeable friend the first time and be careful with chainsaws and other tools used to harvest firewood.
Wear extra clothing so you can keep your thermostat lower. By just putting on an extra sweater or sweatshirt, you will be able to keep your thermostat a bit lower than usual and thus save on the cost of heating. Also, when you are sleeping or watching TV, you can lower your thermostat considerably just by tossing on an extra blanket to keep you warm.
Instead of heating your whole house, consider turning down the thermostat and using a space heater to warm up just the room you are using.
Change the filter on your furnace and consider having your furnace tuned up. This can help your furnace work much more efficiently and economically.
Spend more time out of your house so that you can keep your home's thermostat at a minimum. The library and the mall can offer a warm place to hang out if you have limited or no heat in your home.
During the coldest days of winter, many communities provide "warming shelters" for those without heat to come in and warm up.
And a few reminders:
NEVER use outdoor appliances (barbecue grills, outdoor kerosene heaters, etc.) inside your home to provide heat or a place to cook. The carbon monoxide from these appliances can be deadly.
If you are using a space heater to keep warm, be sure that the cord is not frayed and it is plugged directly into the wall instead of into an extension cord to prevent fires.
Candles are fine for the occasional special dinner or to light your way during a power outage, but they shouldn't be used to provide heat and should never be left unattended.
Make sure your smoke detector and carbon monoxide detector are in good working order. Both of these devices help prevent injuries and deaths commonly associated with heating your home during the winter.
April Borbon is a traveler, freelance writer, and business consultant based out of Las Vegas, NV.
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