Winter Heating: How to save money on gas or electricity

snowflake symbol picture of a snowflakeWays to save money on gas or electricity for heating, reduce energy use, and get free energy

With winter again upon us it’s time to prepare for romantic visions of icy fun, and higher bills for heating with gas or electricity 


Chestnuts roasting on an open fire.

Jack Frost nipping at your nose.  

Sounds great, right?

Time to get real.  

Have you ever eaten an open fire-roasted chestnut?  

If you live in New York City and have risked tasting one of those charred nuggets from a smoking cart, you know they taste like a mushy potato, not a nut.  

And that smell of smoke from a mystery fuel that might be just about anything found on the ground.  Blech!

Let’s get really real about roasting chestnuts: they no longer come from the beautiful American Chestnut tree which is struggling back from the brink of extinction caused by chestnut blight.  Chestnuts now come from the Chinese chestnut, the tree that brought the blight and is now being hybridized with the American chestnut to save it.  

Having tasted a roasted chestnut, I’m wondering why they’re bothering to save the American chestnut.*

* I’m joking – the book above is a tragic but hopeful tale of how we lost “the perfect tree” and how we might get it back.

But what about Jack Frost?  

Jack may provide a brief nasal tingle when you first step out the door.  A bracing moment of icy stimulation.

But Jack Frost doesn’t confine his nipping to your nose.  He gently slaps your cheeks, blows down your neck, chills your bones to the marrow.

Jack Frost is perfectly willing to freeze your butt off.

Jack Frost is also picking your pocket by getting you to waste gas or electricity.

When winter comes, home heating season begins.  Whether you use gas or electricity, heating your house means burning something.  In your case, it means burning money.

Heating with either gas or electricity also consumes precious natural resources, and messes with the atmosphere.

How can you foil Jack Frost, use less gas or electricity, and lower your heating bill?

1) Get a Programmable Thermostat

Program your thermostat’s clock to turn down the heat at night.

The program tells the thermostat to turn the heat back up when you get up, back down when the family leaves in the morning, and back up just before you return to a toasty warm home.

You save a bundle by letting Jack Frost do his thing when no one is home to experience his persistent nipping.  A thermostat that lets you program every minute of expensive heating keeps you warm only WHEN you need the heat.  

The rest of the time?  Free energy!

I use a programmable thermostat and love it.  For this article, I searched for the very best current model.  I like a 7-day model to change the program for weekends.

Cons: Programmable thermostats of every model seem to have disappointed somebody, sometime.  But this model has fewer detractors and lots of enthused fans.  Speaking of fans, not running your gas or electric furnace also saves the electricity by not blowing hot air around an empty house.  

“Programmable thermostat?  Sounds technical.”

A note on connecting thermostats.  It’s easy!  Pay attention to the wires as you disconnect your old thermostat and hook up the wires the same way.

Next heating tip to save gas or electricity:

2) Don’t heat empty rooms!

It’s dumb to heat space when no one is there (except Jack Frost, that theiving varmint).

Heat only the space where you spend time.  Chances are that’s your “den” or computer office.  Did you know that heating just the rooms where you live can save up to 27% on your heating bill?

How do I seal off unused or low-traffic rooms?

2. a. Close off vents in unused rooms or rooms of people you don’t like (just kidding, unless it’s Jack Frost, that hoary scum).  

Here’s a product that let’s you do that.

I use the magnetic vent covers and they work fine even though some reviewers claim they aren’t magnetic enough.  It’s possible to add booster magnets.  Vent covers work for me.  At this price, gamble on a stack of three and maybe win back your bankroll several times over.

Here’s a nifty vent cover for intake vents that takes dust out of circulation.  Doesn’t do jack to combat Jack Frost, though.

2.b. Heat just the rooms you want toasty with a space heater.  

Yes, instead of lowering your thermostat and suffering Jack’s incessant nipping, lower the thermostat even more but send Jack packing from WHERE you are.

What is the best space heater?  Let’s look at what “heating” means.  There are actually three ways that heat travels.  

  • A. convection, in air currents like the ones that your heater fan blows out of your vents 
  • B. conduction, through solids, like a silver tea spoon that burns your hand
  • C. radiation, through anything, including empty space.  Radiation is how the Sun warms us through the vacuum of space and how a radiator transmits heat across a room.
Radiator heat is especially toasty because there is no moving air.  That makes a radiator more efficient, too, because heat doesn’t go blowing away.  An oil-filled radiator uses electricity to heat and circulate oil inside a metal housing that “glows” in infrared (heat) radiation.  Very comfy.

Here’s a good oil-filled radiator.

Again, some reviewers have complaints about every oil-filled radiator, some due to breakage during shipping.  We bought one and it has been terrific.  Saved enough in heating bills to pay for itself in a few months!

2.c. Heat Your Feet

I don’t know about you but a sweater works quite well.  Except for my feet!  Blogging away in the winter makes me feel like Bob Cratchit.   

This little number puts out enough heat for your feet.

Why “ceramic” heater?  Remember the part above about radiative heat?  There WILL be a pop quiz later.  But if you buy a heater you can have a “hands-on” learning experience instead of taking the quiz.

Heated up by the electric current the ceramic gets hot and starts to radiate.  That means it glows in infrared radiation (heat) and also the color orange, just to remind you it’s on.  

The fan also carries some heat forward but you also have a mini radiator aimed right at the body part Jack Frost is nipping the hardest.

Con:  Any electric heater releases more carbon than gas because of conversion losses.  But by heating only a small space, you avoid wasting a lot of gas or electricity heating unused spaces.

In time all these tips and equipment pay for themselves by saving gas or electricity. After that break-even point, the programmable thermostat, vent covers, mini radiator, and ceramic space heater begin generating free energy.  

And that’s good for the Earth.

It turns out Jack Frost is losing on the global scale.  

Let him have his way when and where you aren’t, and he might stick around to nip at your nose every once and awhile.

How do you feel about Jack Frost, chestnuts or saving energy?  Leave a comment!


Bestselling Heater on Amazon

Now that you’ve heated your house’s air, keep it inside!

Your Own Food Mill

Review of the Oxo Food Mill. Cook whole whole or quartered fruit — seeds, peels and all — a food mill creates applesauce, tomato sauce, baby food, ready for seasoning and eating.

Food Mill?  I’m just a person

No it’s not a factory. “Food mill” is the name given to an amazing kitchen tool that’s basically a twirling, fine grater.   In a food mill, apples, tomatoes, potatoes, or whatever, get turned into a smooth, fine-textured sauce.  A food mill is a grater, masher and  strainer all in one.  A food mill handles entire fruits and vegetable, removing seeds and peels in the process.

A food mill gives you the power to “mill” apples into applesauce and tomatoes into tomato sauce.

You can make homemade baby food.

Here’s the beauty part:  you can cook whole whole or quartered fruit — seeds, peels and all — prepare with a food mill and out comes a finished product, free of cores, seeds, and stems, ready for seasoning and eating.

I recommend the Oxo Good Grips Food Mill since I own one and it works like a charm.

Here’s a trick:

While using your Oxo Food Mill, every 10 or so forward turns, turn the crank backwards to clear the peels and seeds off the grater blade.  If you do this every now and then, you can run a couple of quarts through your Oxo before you need to dump the waste in your compost bin.

It’s hard to explain the joy of using a well engineered, well manufactured piece of machinery, but it happens with the Oxo.

Con: Storage. The Oxo comes with a set of blades, graters really, with varying coarseness. Do NOT throw away the box.  Everything fits compactly inside, and it keeps off the dust until the next time you want to turn your harvest (or a good buy) into a fine, smooth, wholesome and tasty sauce.

How to make applesauce:

Get some apples.  Quarter them and boil.  Run them through a food mill.  You have applesauce.  Season to taste. Can the applesauce, make it into apple butter, freeze it, or just eat it.

How to make tomato sauce:

Grow or acquire some tomatoes. Do not peel or seed tomatoes.  Boil them and run them through your food mill.  Season.  Can your sauce or eat fresh.  If you really get hooked, there are powered food mills, too.

I know what you are thinking: $50 is lot for a kitchen tool! After you use it a few times, ask yourself if you would sell it for $50. Nope, a food mill is like a mixer — you may not use it every day, but you know you will need it some day.  Remember to keep the box.

Here’s a link to check out the OXO Good Grips Food Mill

Whole foods, without preservatives and additives, are healthy, but they’re too big! Make them small enough to eat — for all ages — with a food mill.