5 Common home heating myths

With winter setting in across much of the country, homeowners are firing up the furnace and looking for ways to save money on their monthly bills. There are a ton of tips out there on how to save on your energy bill, but much of the conventional wisdom is actually a mix of bunk science and wishful thinking. Here are five common home heating myths.

Myth #1: It’s cheaper to run space heaters in a few rooms than to run your home’s gas heating system.

Looking to save big bucks on their energy bills, some people switch off their home’s gas heating system and instead use space heaters to warm a few high-use rooms. With less square footage to heat, you must be using less energy, right? This would be true if electricity weren’t so much more expensive, and inefficient, than natural gas. Using electricity to heat your home can cost between three to five times what it costs to heat the same space with a gas furnace, which means it might cost the same to heat just a few rooms.

Myth #2: Cranking the thermostat will make your house warm up faster.

Many impatient, shivering homeowners will crank the thermostat to its max setting, thinking that it will warm the house up more quickly. However, your home’s furnace doesn’t pump out more heat if you set the temperature higher; it merely heats your home for longer periods of time. And often, forgetful homeowners who set the dial to sizzling temperatures forget to turn it down until the home is uncomfortably warm, costing them money for no real gain.

Myth #3: Replacing your windows will save you big bucks.

The science is sound: leaky windows waste energy by letting heat escape. The problem, however, is that homeowners often have an outsized idea of how much they can save. New windows can cost thousands of dollars, and before you invest that in making your home more energy efficient, you’re better off dealing with the smaller leaks, which are often much more affordable to plug. By adding insulation around plumbing vents, wall sockets, attics, and adding weather stripping to doors, you can seal up your home for a fraction of the cost of new windows. Small as they may be, all those little leaks really add up.

Myth #4: Ceiling fans are only for summertime.

Ceiling fans are a great way to cool yourself off in the summertime, but they can also make your home more energy efficient in the winter. Flick the switch on the fan to make it spin in a clockwise direction and you’ll force down the warm air that has risen to the ceiling, making your home feel warmer without increasing your furnace’s output.

Myth #5: Replacing a hot water tank with a new EnergyStar model is the best way to cut down on your utility bill.

The EnergyStar logo on a shiny new appliance seems to promise big savings, causing many homeowners to dump perfectly good appliances in the hopes of lower energy costs. While newer appliances are generally more energy efficient, the size and settings of your appliances often matter more than their energy efficiency rating. Your water heater, for instance, accounts for about 18 percent of the average utility bill. By lowering the temperature on the tank to 120 degrees Fahrenheit, you can start to see some savings on your bill without sacrificing a hot shower. So before you rush off to buy a new water heater to lower your bill, make sure your current one is set properly.