Depending on your rental agreement, you may be responsible for the cost of heating your home. Energy used to heat is expensive, and if you live in a cold climate or it is a particularly cold winter, your monthly heating bills may be very high. That is why you should have a plan to conserve energy and save money while keeping your home at a comfortable temperature.


In 2020, electricity or natural gas were used to heat 90% of U.S. homes. In the Northeast U.S., heating oil and propane are also common fuels used to heat single-family houses. Propane is also common as a heating fuel in single-family houses in the northern Midwest U.S. If you heat with electricity or gas, you will receive a monthly bill from the energy company. If your rental heats with heating oil or propane, and you are responsible for the cost of heat, you will pay for a tank to be filled up with when it runs low. Tanks will have a gauge on them that show when they are low on oil or gas. You will likely get instructions on how and when to fill the tanks from your landlord or management agent.



Setting the Right Temperature Inside Your Home

One of the most effective ways to save energy and money during the cold months is to use the thermostat wisely if you have one in your apartment or house. A thermostat is small box mounted on a wall with a built-in thermometer that automatically turns the heat on and off to keep your home at the temperature that you set. Many thermostats can be scheduled to set the temperature lower and save energy when you are not at home or at night while sleeping. Scheduling your thermostat or lowering the temperature manually will save considerable money on your heating bills.  


Start by setting the thermostat at 68° Fahrenheit (20° Celsius) when you are home. If you find that your heating bills are too high, you can try setting it at a lower temperature and wear more clothes. You can save up to 3% on your energy bill for each degree lower you set your thermostat. Schedule or set the thermostat to 62° Fahrenheit (17° Celsius) when you go to sleep. Set it back to your preferred daytime temperature about one half hour before the family wakes up. If no one is home during certain hours of day because everyone is at work or school, set or schedule the thermostat back down to 62° Fahrenheit (17° Celsius), then back up to 68° Fahrenheit (20° Celsius) when people get home. 


IMPORTANT!  Never turn your heat completely off in the winter. If you are going away, set it from 55°-60° Fahrenheit (13°-15° Celsius). If you turn your heat off, your pipes may freeze and break, and you will be responsible for the cost of plumbing repair and flooding damage which could cost thousands of dollars.


Some rentals have electric heaters built into the walls of rooms. Turn these heaters off in rooms that are not in use, except in kitchens and bathrooms to protect pipes from freezing.


 If you use portable electric heaters for additional heat, 

  • Never leave them on if you are not in the room. 
  • Do not use an extension cord when using portable heaters. 
  • Unplug them when not in use.
  • Keep flammable items like clothes, paper, or furniture at least three feet away from them.


And remember that portable electric heaters use a lot of energy. Use them only when absolutely necessary.



Keep the Cold Outside and the Heat Inside

Up to a third of a typical home’s heat loss is through windows and doors. Seal these openings with insulation, weatherstripping or caulking material to keep cold air outside and warm air inside. Install door sweeps on the bottom of doors that open to the outside. You can buy these materials at a hardware store or big box store. Insulating leaks can save an average household 10% to 20% on its annual heating bill.


Closing curtains during the winter can help to reduce up to 10 percent in heat loss. If curtains are hung close to the windows, they can help prevent as much as 25 percent of that heat loss. However, opening curtains on sunlit windows during the day can warm a room. Just remember to close the curtains at night or on windows that don’t get as much sun.  Also, make sure that heating vents are not blocked by furniture or other objects.


If you have difficulty paying your energy bill, there are government and charitable programs that may be able to help. Start by visiting this link:


Disclaimer: This article was created in partnership with Refugee Housing Solutions. Refugee Housing Solutions is a project of Church World Service under an agreement paid for by the U.S. Department of State.