11 Home Heating Mistakes You Didn't Know Were Costing You

Allie Ogletree
Written by Allie Ogletree
Updated September 21, 2022
A cozy family at home
Photo: E+ / Getty Images

You can avoid these home heating mistakes without breaking a sweat

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It’s no secret that when it’s cold outside, the last thing we want is a chilly home. Seeing frosty breath as you walk into a room isn’t a pleasurable experience, so we instinctively do whatever we can to heat our homes as quickly as possible. 

However, several habits may have been causing you to spend more money on your heating bill than necessary. Let’s look at common home heating mistakes and how you can avoid them in the future.

1. Cranking Up the Thermostat

When you feel a bit of a chill in your home, what’s one of the first things you do? Turning up the thermostat to its highest temperature may seem like the smartest move to make (the higher the temperature, the faster the interior will warm up, right?), but unfortunately, this common habit is a big no-no. The thermostat's setting has no reflection on how quickly your home’s temperature will change. It actually increases your system’s wear and tear because it’s working much harder to meet your demands.

To lower your heating costs, keep your thermostat at a reasonable level, depending on your home’s needs. If not, you could damage your system and pay around $5,500, the average cost to install a new furnace.

2. Closing Vents in Empty or Unused Rooms

Another habit some homeowners are guilty of is fully closing vents. Common sense would have you closing anything that would let heat escape, but this is counterproductive. 

When your heating system is running, it pulls the air from your home, heats it, and circulates it. However, closing your furnace vents leaves room for potential heating system issues such as:

  • Damaged ductwork

  • Increased system wear and tear

  • Reduced energy efficiency

  • Carbon monoxide leak

Remember, air can go through any permeable substance, meaning that even if your vents are closed, air will pass through. Air that doesn’t circulate properly leads to pressure build-up and could cause any one of the issues listed above.

Aim for a happy medium instead. Close your vents slightly to increase heating efficiency in rooms that need it the most.

3. Leaving the Heater on When No One Is Home

You don’t need to blast the heater when you’re at work, on vacation, or spending the day out and about. Instead, drop the temperature on your thermostat to 65 degrees to conserve energy in your home before leaving. 

Remembering to dial the heat down might not be at the top of your to-do list, so if you have a manual thermostat, consider upgrading your thermostat to a programmable or smart thermostat. You can schedule a programmable thermostat to lower the temperature at specific times of the day. 

If you live in an area with frequent weather changes, it might be beneficial to upgrade your thermostat to a smart thermostat. You can adjust these thermostats from virtually anywhere—so long as you have the app downloaded on your smartphone. Some smart thermostats track your temperature habits and adjust to conserve the most energy. 

4. Not Locking Your Windows

Though it might seem like a closed window is a sealed window, windows that aren’t locked could have small cracks that allow heat to slip through. Ensure all of your windows are locked once the weather gets cold to ensure that your heater’s hard work isn’t going out the window. 

5. Ignoring Leaky Doors & Windows

Locking your windows alone might not be enough for old, leaky windows and doors. If you notice drafts in the house, it’s a good idea to inspect all windows and doors to determine if they need caulking, weatherstripping, window film, or door sweeps. 

You may need to replace older windows entirely, especially if they’re single-pane windows. If you see rot, cracks, or damage around the jamb and casing, you’ll also need to replace the window frames.

6. Neglecting Regular Maintenance

Like most systems with working parts, maintenance is an essential factor that will impact how much you pay in the long run. Scheduling system maintenance probably doesn’t cross your mind as much because of other tasks on your plate—work, bills, chasing kids and dogs around the home.

But you should make it a priority to avoid any long-term damage to your system. Try implementing a plan to have a local HVAC contractor check your heating system yearly.

7. Forgetting to Change Air Filters

Hands replace an air filter
Photo: Ilja / Adobe Stock

All HVAC maintenance doesn’t require the help of a professional. The one thing you can do to ensure your heating costs stay reasonable is to change the air filters.

Air filters collect dust and debris in your home’s air to prevent you from breathing them in. Failing to change them frequently causes particle buildup, impacts your home’s air quality, and increases your system’s workload (higher energy bills for you).

Depending on your heating system, try changing filters every one or two months. Dirty ductwork can also contribute to unclean filters. We recommend having a local air duct professional clean your ducts, which costs between $270 and $490.

8. Using Space Heaters 

When your home’s heating system isn’t doing a good job, we tend to use space heaters to pick up the slack. If you’re relying on a space heater to heat your entire home, you might be waiting quite a while.

These appliances are most effective when heating single rooms. But even then, they’ll still be costly when used for extended periods. Not to mention, they can also be a fire hazard when misused. 

9. Relying on Fireplaces

We love a good relaxing time in front of the fire—you can snuggle up, read a good book, or watch your favorite show while staying toasty. But fireplaces can lead to enhanced costs, too.

Unfortunately, fireplaces are only effective in the room you’re in and when you’re sitting directly in front of them. So people in other rooms won’t feel the heat released from the fire. They’re also a fire hazard when mishandled.

An inefficient fireplace—such as one that’s not properly ventilated or maintained—can make your house cooler once you’ve put out the fire. All of that hot air can slip through the chimney, bringing in cold air. That’s why it’s important to hire a chimney inspector to conduct an inspection before you use it

10. Keeping the Bathroom Exhaust Fan On

Bathroom exhaust fans are great because they push moisture, smells, and humidity from the air and keep it fresh. But therein lies the problem: They remove humidity from the air, venting hot air up and out to keep spaces cooler. If you leave the exhaust fan on for an extended period, the warmth in your home will go with it.

To avoid a dry, cold, and uncomfortable home, turn off the exhaust fan in your bathroom as soon as you finish using the space to keep the fan from pushing the heat out of your home. The same applies to your kitchen area, so be sure to turn off the exhaust fan in your kitchen, too.

11. Ignoring Insulation

Have you ever walked by a closed window or door and felt a draft? You might have an insulation problem. Cracks or gaps in these areas can lead to heat escaping from your home. 

As a result, your heating system will work harder to heat colder rooms, leading to higher energy bills. Sealing any problem areas in your home can help reduce your energy costs and avoid this costly home heating mistake.

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