How to save on heating costs as cooler temps come to Middle Tennessee

A federal report shows heating costs are expected to rise a lot this winter due to inflation and higher energy costs.
Published: Dec. 5, 2022 at 7:07 PM CST
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NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WSMV) - Colder winter temperatures are arriving in Middle Tennessee, but many families are turning their thermostats down instead of up because of higher heating costs.

The U.S. Energy Information Administration said heating bills could go up by more than 50% this winter, depending on what fuel you use to heat your home and how low temperatures get.

The average household that uses natural gas for heat will see a 25% increase this season, and spend $900 on heating between October and March, according to the administration’s annual report. That is up from $723 last winter.

The average household that uses electricity for heat will see an 11% increase this winter, per the report. Families will spend $1,366 on electric heating between October and March, which is an increase from $1,233 last winter.

Administration officials said the increase is due to a combination of inflation and record-high fuel costs. Heating prices this winter are projected to reach levels that haven’t been seen in more than seven years.

Families in Middle Tennessee are already feeling the pain of these higher costs. Wanda Williams said her electric bill went up $40 in November forcing her to work more hours at her part-time job and cut back on other costs.

“The heat might have been turned up to 70 at night because it does get pretty cool in here at night, but I will immediately turn the heat down to 68 at least,” Williams said about her morning routine to save energy. “If I feel like it is going to be warmer that day, I will cut it down to 65 if I have to just because there isn’t really anybody in the house.”

“It’s a big change,” Williams said.  “But it is needed when you’re struggling to begin with, and you live on that fixed income. You have to pick and choose where you can make your cutbacks.”

Williams said the only times she turns the temperature up is when her grandchildren come to visit. She’s also started to cook things like soup that can easily be reheated over a couple of days to spend less time with the stove on and has turned off lights and Christmas decorations during the day.

NES said power bills are tied directly to energy usage, so colder weather means your furnace or heat pump is working harder to maintain its temperature. The utility company offers an online tool to help people figure out how to cut down on their consumption.

NES also recommends opening your curtains or blinds during the day to let in sunlight, keeping garage doors closed to provide a cold air buffer, replacing furnace air filters so systems run efficiently, covering drafty windows, closing fireplace dampers unless a fire is burning, and caulking possible air leaks.

“Usually, I am always in a sweatshirt,” Williams said. “I usually wear fleece pants around the house. I’ve got a daughter that lives with me and works from home and she is always in a heavy jacket because it is pretty chilly in the house for her.”

Groups like the Metro Action Commission also offer energy assistance programs to help families pay their energy bills.