Older Home? Here’s How to Save Money On Your Heating Bills

This story is part of Home TipsCNET’s collection of practical advice for getting the most out of your home, inside and out.

Heating a house is rarely cheap and with global energy prices are risingit’s more important than ever to think about how we design our homes more energy efficient.

This is easier to do with newer properties as they are built with more efficiency in mind, with double glazed doors and windows and thermal insulation throughout.

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Older and historic properties are a different matter altogether, as many lack these qualities. And their periodic nature often means that adding insulation can be costly. (Here is This is how you can tell whether you are buying an energy-saving house.)

But there are many other ways you can heat your home more cheaply, and many of them won’t cost you anything. I’ve compiled some of the best tips I use in my own 1860’s home in Scotland – a building where any improvement I can make to its efficiency goes a long way. You can also check out more tips This saves you money on your heating bills in winterand a simple one Ceiling fan hack that can keep your home warmer.

Continue reading: Best Smart Thermostats for 2022

Check out insulation options for walls and roof

While older properties (including my own) may not have insulation built in as standard, it is still possible to add it. Homes lose a lot of heat through the roof, so adding insulation here can be a good place to start. It’s even possible to buy insulation (in rolls or even sheets) and install it yourself.


If you insulate your roof or walls, you can reduce your heating costs.


The walls are a different matter entirely and require insulation to either be fitted to the interior walls with a false wall erected inside to create the cavity or a new plastered wall erected on the outside of the building. For historic homes, where the original walls are part of the character, this latter option just won’t work – especially if your home is a listed building, like mine, where there is a particular focus on preserving the exterior aesthetics of the property. Other insulation options can include materials inserted under the floor panels.

Adding insulation to the building can be a great way to increase energy efficiency, but it can also be a major expense and potentially very disruptive to the installation. Luckily, there are many insulation specialists who can advise you on the best options.


Those big, old windows might look great, but single panes of glass don’t hold heat well.

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Replace those old windows with better ones – or get good curtains

Speaking of expensive options, let’s talk about windows. Many historic properties have extremely large windows that provide beautiful views and let in plenty of natural light, but can also allow a lot of heat to escape during the colder months. Replacing old windows can therefore be a great way to keep the heat in the house, especially if those old windows have plain panes of glass. Double glazing is much more heat efficient.

Also check that the rubber seals are in good condition. If there are any gaps for air to enter, the sealant could always be replaced without the expense of replacing the entire window.

Unfortunately, double-glazed windows don’t come cheap, especially in older buildings. Replacing the windows on my property would probably cost over $30,000, which is just money I don’t have to spare. If replacing the windows is not an option, consider using thicker curtains, which, when closed, can help seal the window and prevent drafts from entering.


If your front door has a mail slot, it is highly recommended that you fit a draft excluder around it.

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Seal or cover areas with drafts

If your home has draft areas, it becomes even more difficult to keep heat inside, so it’s important to find those problem areas and plug them well. You can usually tell where they’re coming from, and it’s usually worse anywhere the inside is separate from the outside. Drafts around exterior doors are common, especially if you have an older door.

Consider gluing Foam drawstring around the inside of your door frame so that your door seals tightly when closed. If your door has a mailbox, make sure it has one draft excluder (a sealed box or bristles to keep air out) and if there is a gap under the door then get one draft excluder (one of those long sausage-shaped pillows) to keep drafts at bay.

Again, it’s important to check the seals around your windows. And don’t forget to use thicker curtains.


Simply keeping your interior doors closed makes it much easier to heat the room you are in and prevent the heat from escaping to other parts of the home.

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Keep interior doors closed

It’s one of the cheapest and easiest things to do, but keeping your interior doors to your rooms closed can make a world of difference in heating your home. It has two advantages. First, it helps keep drafts under control, preventing them from seeping into your cozy living room and giving you chills.

Second, and more importantly, it keeps the heat in, which means that if you have the heating (radiators or heaters) on in your living room, that heat doesn’t escape, meaning less money spent overall. Extra bonus if those interior doors are also sealed strong adhesive tape.


Smart thermostats like Hive make it easier to schedule your heating to only heat your home when you need it.

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Get a smart thermostat and upgrade your radiator valves

Your home’s central heating is usually the best way to warm up the room, but older systems tend not to be particularly efficient and often heat the whole house unnecessarily and at times when you don’t even need it.

Therefore, consider switching to a smart thermostat how Amazon Smart Thermostatthe Google Nest Learning Thermostat or in my case this Beehive Thermostat. With these you can program exactly when the heating should be switched on and at what temperature – and then when it should be switched off. It allows you to keep the house nice and warm when you get up for the morning shower and it can be turned off when you go to work.

But with intelligent radiator valves you can go one step further. Smart valves, like the ones from Hive I use, allow you to only heat specific spaces you need at specific times — say, the bedroom and bathroom in the morning and the living room at night — meaning zero energy is wasted is wasted heating spaces you are not using.

Continue reading: The best affordable smart thermostats of 2022

Use portable heaters

As with intelligent valves, a small, portable heater can be a more efficient way to heat only the spaces you need. This can be especially useful for those of you who work from home when you can use a simple plug-in heater that directs a warm flow of air straight to you, rather than having to turn on your home’s central heating.


Portable heaters won’t keep your whole house toasty and warm, but if you work from home and want to keep your office area warmer, it can be more cost-effective to use plug-in heaters than keeping your central heating turned up.

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I found that Philips 3-in-1 fan heater series 2000 does a great job of adding an extra burst of heat when needed, with the benefit of also filtering the air and acting as a cooling fan in the summer months. Plug-in fans and panel heaters may not always be super energy efficient if you leave them on 24/7, but they can be great for giving a warm boost without having to heat the whole house. (Be sure to check out ours Space heater safety guide also.)

Continue reading: Best garage heaters for 2022

dress warmer

It may sound obvious, but if you dress warmly at home, you can save a lot on heating costs. And maybe you already are, but there are many of us who are guilty of sitting at home on a winter’s evening in our t-shirts and thinking, “I’m actually a bit cold,” and then turning on the heater.

Instead, perhaps a nice pile of fluffy sweaters or some nice knitted blankets could help give you that cozy feeling without incurring the expense of turning your heating up.

For more money-saving tips this winter, click here how caulking your home can lower your bills and how much you can save by changing your furnace filter.

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