Keep your home warm and energy efficient this winter with these handy tips. Whether you have a gas or electric heater, a few conscious energy choices and a small effort to weather seal your home can make a big difference in your electricity bill.
How do I know if I have an electric furnace or if something else is affecting my bill?
- Read our frequently asked questions below for a full explanation of electric vs. gas heating, along with steps to help you determine if your furnace is gas- or electric-powered.
- Explore our Understanding Your Bill page for an illustrated explanation of your Reliant bill.
2U.S. Department of Energy https://energy.gov/energysaver/fall-and-winter-energy-saving-tips
3U.S. Department of Energy https://energy.gov/energysaver/fall-and-winter-energy-saving-tips
What is electric heat?Electric heat is heat produced by an appliance (e.g., an HVAC unit) using electricity instead of some other fuel like natural gas.
How does having an electric furnace impact my bill?
Electric furnaces are generally more expensive to operate than gas furnaces for two reasons: (1) electric furnaces produce less heat in the same amount of time as gas furnaces and (2) electricity typically costs more than gas in the market. This is why a person with an electric furnace will likely experience more of a jump in costs during the winter than a person with a gas furnace.
How do I know if my home is heated with electricity or some other heating source?
Ask yourself the following questions:
- Does your home use a fuel source other than electricity, such as gas? Do you pay your electricity bill plus another fuel bill?
- Are your large appliances, such as your stove or water heater, gas or electric?
- Does your clothes dryer have a conventional plug and wall outlet, or is the plug bigger than normal? Gas dryers typically have normal-looking plugs, and electric dryers usually have bigger plugs to accommodate larger voltage.
If you still aren't sure whether your furnace is gas or electric, ask an HVAC technician.
Should I look into alternative fuel sources to heat my premise?This is tough to answer because so many variables come into play. Changing the power used to heat your home could be unaffordable or even prohibited in certain communities. If this is something you want to look into further, you should have a professional come to your home to give you guidance specific to your home and neighborhood.
How can I save energy during the holidays?
We have several holiday cooking, decorating and general energy tips that can help you save electricity and money.
What can I do now to control energy costs and still stay comfortable?
Try some of the following suggestions:
- Keep your equipment in good working order by having a professional service it regularly.
- Wear comfortable, weather-appropriate clothes to help reduce the demand for heat.
- Make sure your windows and doors are sealed well. If you can feel air coming through, invest in properly sealing any cracks or gaps.
- Check your thermostat settings. For every degree above 68 degrees, you can expect a 3-5 percent increase in heating costs.
- Try an electric heating blanket to stay warm in bed. They cost less than a quarter per night.
- Never use your oven or stove to heat your home. These appliances consume a large amount of electricity.
- During the day, put sunlight to work by opening window coverings.
Will using portable heaters help save on my electric bill?
Portable space heaters can save money in some instances. If your central heating system is electric and your space heater is in good working condition with an accurate thermostat, the space heater could be the cheaper option, provided you turn your central heater down and only use one or two space heaters in very isolated areas for short periods of time.1
However, if your central heating system runs on gas, an electric space heater will not reduce your electric bill. It could potentially reduce your total energy costs (gas and electric) if you use the space heater in only a small area and are sure to turn it off when you are not in the room, but you would have to weigh your gas bill against the cost to run the space heater on electricity.
If you do decide to use a space heater, be sure to buy one that is the appropriate size for the space you want to heat. Invest in a model that includes a timer to avoid leaving it on too long, as space heaters are a fire hazard and can consume more energy than anticipated when left unattended.2
How often should I get my chimney inspected?
The National Fire Protection Association recommends that chimneys be inspected once per year.3 The Chimney Safety Institute of America adds that you should sweep your chimney once it contains 1/8" of soot—sooner if your fireplace is glazed—to prevent chimney fires.4 Whether you use your chimney or not, debris may be present due to storms, vegetation, animals, birds and general deterioration, so annual maintenance is necessary.
3National Fire Protection Association http://www.nfpa.org/public-education/resources/education-programs/community-tool-kits/keeping-your-community-safe-and-warm
4Chimney Safety Institute of America http://www.csia.org/faq.html
Does a fireplace save energy over winter months?
A wood-burning fireplace can save money if used instead of your central HVAC. You don't have to use gas or electric energy at all to burn the wood, and you can heat up very large spaces using the fireplace.5 However, you have a gas fireplace, you will need to do more research into how much gas the fireplace consumes before making any cost savings calculations.6 A gas fireplace could save you on your electricity bill if your central heater is electric, but if your central heater runs on gas, it could be a wash.
No matter which kind of fireplace you have, keep your fireplace efficient and safe with regular maintenance and sweeping.
5U.S. Department of Energy https://energy.gov/energysaver/articles/cozy-fire-while-saving-money-and-energy
6U.S. Department of Energy https://energy.gov/energysaver/articles/oh-energy-related-stories-i-have-heard
Does lowering the temperature of my water heater save money on the electricity bill?
Yes, reducing the temperature of your water heater can help you lower your electricity bill if your water heater is electric. If your water heater is gas, you may still save money, but the savings would be seen on your gas bill, not your electric bill.
Most homes only need the water heater to be set at 120°F, even though the water heater manufacturer may have the water heater set much higher by default.7
7U.S. Department of Energy https://energy.gov/energysaver/projects/savings-project-lower-water-heating-temperature
How frequently should I schedule regular maintenance for my furnace or heat pump?
We recommend a heater tune-up at least once per year, in the fall before winter hits. If you call us to perform your Heater Tune-Up, a licensed professional will perform a 12-point service check on your system and recommend any needed repairs.
I simply cannot afford my bill. What can Reliant do for me right now?
If you are having trouble paying for your current bill, call 1-866-RELIANT to talk about payment plans and options available to you. We can help.
For help with future bills, try one of these options:
- Call 1-888-EEXPERT, where Reliant energy experts can answer questions about how to economize your home energy usage.
- Consider different payment options, like average billing. Call 1-866-RELIANT to see if you're eligible. With average billing, your bill is calculated based on the last 12 months of usage at your address, so your bills stay more consistent throughout the year.
- Dial 211 to learn about additional assistance available in your community.