Because using an HVAC system year-round is costly, many Raleigh, North Carolina, homeowners look for non-traditional ways to save money. There are plenty of such alternatives, but it’s important to know all the facts about them and how to use them safely.

Space Heaters

Many people turn to space heaters instead of cranking up the heat in the entire home. Space heaters are a good solution for a particular situation. If you work from home, you might want to heat up only your home office during the day, instead of heating the entire house. If you or your spouse gets cold at night, a space heater in your bedroom is an excellent choice. There’s no point in wasting energy on heating empty rooms.

Space heaters are a great alternative to turning up your thermostat, but you can misuse them. Space heaters can cause house fires when they are used incorrectly. Make sure your space heater is in good working condition and is placed on a hard, flat surface away from any potential fire hazards. If you have an ancient space heater, get rid of it, and buy a modern one. Also, don’t let kids, pets, or anything flammable near a space heater when it’s turned on, and don’t leave a space heater turned on while you’re not home or are no longer using that room.

Electric Blankets

It’s understandable that you want your family to be cozy, especially during the cold winter months, but you don’t want to go broke in the process. Electric blankets help keep your family warm and snuggly without having to turn up the heat. Electric blankets are handy, but you need to make sure you keep safety considerations in mind. 

Make sure the wiring on your electric blankets is intact, with no fraying wires or cables. Check for this every single time you use your electric blanket. The electric blanket should also be the top layer of your bed, with no extra blankets or comforters on top of it. Don’t let pets sleep on top of an electric blanket either. Be extra careful when using an electric blanket on a child’s bed, and never use one in a crib or for a baby.

Heating With the Oven

When you bake something, the heat that radiates from the oven makes the kitchen nice and warm. So it’s not a leap to think about using your oven to heat your house, instead of or in addition to using your HVAC system. Although you feel nice and toasty when you’re standing right next to the oven, it wasn’t intended for that, so it’s an inefficient heat source. There’s no way for the air to circulate through your home, so the heating capacity is insufficient.

This inefficiency is a good reason not to use your oven, but there’s another, more important reason: safety. You should never try to heat your home with your oven. If you have a gas oven, then you’re putting yourself at risk for carbon monoxide poisoning. This odorless gas can seep into your house without your realizing it and put you and your family in danger. Furthermore, ovens get extremely hot, so by leaving them on, you’re increasing the risk of someone in the household coming into contact with the oven and getting burned.


A fireplace is a big selling point for homebuyers. There’s nothing like snuggling by a crackling fire on a cold winter night. A fireplace creates a cozy and romantic atmosphere like nothing else can. Unfortunately, though, most fireplaces aren’t sufficient to heat your entire home. At best, they might heat the room they’re located in. Fireplaces are neither an efficient nor effective way to heat a home.

Fireplaces should also be treated with care. Make sure you have your chimney cleaned and inspected every winter before using your fireplace. Also, make sure that the damper is open or closed as appropriate. Don’t let animals or children play near the hearth. Be extra-careful about hanging anything from the mantel. Make sure the fire is completely extinguished before leaving the house or going to bed, and always have a working carbon monoxide detector in the house. 

Turning Off the Heater

Obviously, most people won’t turn off the heater when the family is home, and it’s cold out. But many people wonder whether they should leave it on while they’re out of the house.

Turning off the heater completely when the kids are at school, and you’re at work sounds good in theory. But in fact, it’s cheaper just to turn the thermostat down about 4 degrees before you leave. That way, the heater won’t have to work extra-hard to bring the temperature back up when you get home, and you’ll thus save energy. You may also want to consider investing in a smart thermostat, or at least a programmable thermostat, to better control the temperature in your home for maximum energy efficiency. 

Turning off your heater completely when you’re not home can present other problems. The temperature doesn’t get below freezing very often in North Carolina, but you need be prepared for it when it does. If you’ve left your heat off and Raleigh freezes when you’re away, the worst-case scenario is that you could come back to flooding from a frozen and burst pipe. Cold also encourages the growth of mold and mildew.

Turning Off the AC

Your utility bills probably spike in the summer, thanks to Raleigh’s hot summers and your air conditioner. To save money, you might be tempted to turn the air conditioning off altogether and rely on fans and open windows.

But while some people do live without air conditioning, you need to be especially careful if you forego air conditioning altogether. Heat stroke is a very real and dangerous condition caused by dehydration and overheating. If you don’t use your air conditioner, you need to make sure your family stays hydrated, and you need to watch them carefully for signs of heat stroke or heat exhaustion.

If you’re concerned about your energy bills, you should discuss alternatives with your HVAC contractor. Chances are you don’t have the most efficient system for your home, and an upgrade might save you a lot of money on utilities. Also, if your HVAC system is aging, your filters are clogged, or you have leaky ducts, you could be spending excessive and unnecessary money. Think about making an appointment with a contractor to discuss alternative ways to save you money without having to switch off the air conditioner entirely. 

Ignoring Warning Signs

Nowadays, a standard HVAC system is a safe way to heat and cool your home. But it’s important that you be vigilant and not ignore warning signs that could signal problems with the system. Bad smells, especially a smell like rotten eggs, can be a warning sign that there’s a gas leak in your home. If you smell something burning, you should search for the culprit immediately. A moldy or musty smell is also a cause for concern since mold in your home can lead to poor indoor air quality and health problems for your family.

A total breakdown during the coldest winter months or the heat of summer can also be dangerous. It’s important to prevent an HVAC breakdown by investing in preventive maintenance for your system. This maintenance will ensure that your system runs efficiently, and it will also alert the technician of any potential issues before they turn into something major. Make sure you have an emergency kit in your home that’s ready for summer and winter in case you do experience a power outage or HVAC breakdown during the height of the season.

If you’re concerned about your HVAC costs, your best resource is an HVAC contractor, who can discuss with you safe heating and cooling alternatives for your home. HVAC contractors also know the best secrets for saving money on your utility bills. Contact Carolina Comfort Air at 919-879-2106 to schedule an appointment with an experienced professional today.

Image provided by Shutterstock