Here in the northeast, we’re being warned to expect exorbitant heating bills again this year. The pessimists out there think fuel costs for this area will top even the predicted average of more than three thousand dollars for the heating season. And the heavy frosts we had several nights last week were a stark reminder that the really cold weather isn’t far away.

We’ve done what we can to make our house more energy efficient. Over the past several years we have added insulation, storm windows and storm doors, caulked and replaced weatherstripping, and insulated electrical outlets. Last year we even added an additional layer of thermal plastic to all of our windows and this made a real difference. We have turned down the thermostats, turned off the hot water heater overnight, and made countless other changes or improvements in our effort to keep our heating bill as low as possible.

The field next to our house

One of the best decisions we ever made was to purchase the large stove that has been the focal point in our kitchen for the past several years. Although the stove looks exactly like an 1850′s black and chrome cookstove, it is actually an authentic reproduction of that era stove only with energy efficient features. Every year as soon as the cold weather hits, we fire up this stove and keep it going night and day until the warmer weather arrives in the spring. The stove easily supplies enough heat so we never need to even turn on the thermostats in any of the other rooms on that floor.

Our wood-burning cook stove

This stove’s cast iron cook top and the fairly roomy oven mean I can still bake and get meals even during power outages. And because the stove has a water reservoir, it also serves as a limited source of immediate and continual hot water all the time (as long as we remember to keep the reservoir filled!). Plus a couple of canners of water kept on the stove can mean “free” hot water for the washing machine or for washing dishes.

The ceiling fans we have installed in every room have saved us a lot of money too. We initially chose fans to help keep the rooms cool in the summer, but they’re also great for distributing heat in the winter. It is amazing what a difference one of these fans can make when the airflow is redirected downward, and that is as simple as flipping the tiny switch that is located between the light fixture and the blades on every fan.

All of our bedrooms are on the second floor. This year we’re going to try turning the thermostats in those rooms way down or off and using individual radiant space heaters to help lower our heating costs even further. I’ll let you know how that one turns out.