20 Ways to Save Money on Your Fuel Bill

Energy Conservation Begins at Home

Last year was my daughter’s first winter in her first house — a two-story colonial built in the 1930s — and she and her husband experienced a bit of an energy shock. The two 275-gallon oil tanks in their basement were full at the beginning of the heating season, but by the end of September, one tank had to be refilled. During the coldest month, they ordered 400 gallons. All told, they went through 1,500 gallons of oil over the course of the winter. Ouch!

This year that same amount of oil will cost 32 percent more, according to some estimates. If they used natural gas — as do 55 percent of U.S. households — the cost crunch would be worse, up about 50 percent. Propane is expected to go up 30 percent and electricity 5 percent.

Prices are rising because supply is not keeping up with demand, which brings us to an interesting point: if enough of us cut back our usage, not only would we lower our personal energy bills, but energy costs overall would go down because demand would lessen. That’s double relief, and it’s something we can all do something about with very little effort.

My daughter turned down the thermostat to 65 degrees, replaced a leaky old patio door with an energy-efficient new one, sealed unused doors shut with clear silicone, and applied plastic on the inside of windows to save energy.

Low-Cost Ways to Conserve Energy

It doesn’t cost a thing to turn down the thermostat or put on a sweater, and it costs very little to make small changes that save a lot. For long-term savings, you’ll have to spend more. Start with the no-cost ideas at the top of the list and work your way down to save more energy and lower your bills for the long term. You’ll live more comfortably, save money, and help the environment all at the same time.

Here’s a list arranged in approximate order from the least to most expensive steps you can take to conserve energy and save money on your fuel bills. (For starters, contact your local utility or state energy office for a referral to programs or contractors who do energy audits.)

Open south-facing window shades and drapes during the day and close them at night.

Set your water heater no higher than 120 degrees F.

Turn off lights when not in use.

Keep your fireplace damper closed when not in use.

Check your dryer vent cap to be sure it closes tightly when not in use. Install storm windows if you have them.

Install foam insulators behind faceplates for light switches and electrical outlets.

Replace your furnace filter once a month or every three months depending on filter type.

Seal gaps and cracks, especially around windows and doors, with caulk and weather stripping.

Use ventilating fans sparingly.

Conserve Energy for the Long Term Replace standard light bulbs with energy-efficient bulbs.

Choose Energy Star products.

Have a contractor perform an annual heating and cooling system check. Install and use a programmable thermostat.

Replace your water heater if it’s more than 10 years old.

Add insulation to the attic.

Replace your refrigerator if it’s more than 10 years old. Replace your heating and cooling system if it’s old and inefficient. Replace windows and doors if they’re too cold to be near in the winter.

When building, choose an Energy Star qualified new home.

For More Information

Call your local utility and ask what programs are available to encourage energy efficiency. Often, power companies will offer rebates on new heating and cooling systems, free energy audits, and other cost incentives to help you conserve energy. You might also find these Web sites helpful.

Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy


Energy Star


Home Energy Saver


Alliance to Save Energy