Finances & Money

Ways to Save Money #14: Block-Off Unused Rooms

blanket door
This is part fourteen of the Ways to Save Money Series.

Now that I work from home one day per week due to school, I can’t just have the heat down to our normal daytime temperature or I would be very uncomfortable. But running the furnace at our evening levels is costly when it’s just me in the house.

While I’m working, I pretty much just stay in the office. In the evening, we spend most of our time in the family room, which is an addition on the other end of the house. When the last owners put in this addition, they didn’t run ductwork from the furnace. So the new bathroom has no heat and the living room only has an electric baseboard heater.

So what do I do? Well, as you can see by the photo above, I’ve hung a blanket over the doorway of the addition to keep the heat in the main part of the house and the cold air in the addition. After doing so, a thermometer in the addition shows a full 10 degrees lower than the rest of the house. Now, the furnace runs less and we save money. And eventually, I might even add a real door to that frame!

So What Can You Do to Save Money?

Most homes have different layouts, so only you can determine what you can do in your home. As I said, in our home, I block off 2 rooms during the day when I’m home so the furnace runs less. In the evening, I sometimes keep the blanket up while we’re in the addition, lower the furnace and only run the electric baseboard heater.

In your home, do you have a room you just don’t use often? Maybe spare bedrooms, an office, mudroom or even the bathroom? You can simply close the door to that room or hang a blanket over the entry (if there’s no door).

If you have multiple levels in your home, but no door to close off the space between floors, you can hang a sheet or blanket in the stairwell if you don’t travel between floors often. I should warn you to be careful about going up or down the stairs when there is something blocking your way. Sometimes frugality can be dangerous (and unstylish).

Some people also assume that they should just close off the air vents in unused rooms so that other rooms get that hot air. However, a competing theory suggests that closing vents does not actually save money. Instead, the furnace gets all confused about how hot it really is, or may even overheat because that hot air is coming right back to it. I don’t know which side is right yet, but having already gone through an overheated furnace once, I’ll stick with the latter theory for now.

So in your home, see about just closing off a room, rooms, or even an entire floor when not in use to allow the warm air to stay where you want it to be. You’ll save money through heating/cooling costs as well as extending the life of your furnace/air conditioner.

About the author

Clever Dude


  • Ok…haha that looks, for a lack of a better word – ghetto. Although I do agree with your strategy of closing vents in unused rooms. That’s what I do during the day when most time is spend in the living and office area. I close the bedroom door and vents to keep warm air in the living areas.

  • MBB, I was going to use the word ghetto too, but I figured I would let my readers decide for themselves. But if you’re wasting money simply because you want style over functionality, then you (the generic you, not picking on you specifically) should rethink your priorities.

  • There is only one problem with this strategy, which I know because I tried it last winter. If you keep whole rooms closed off over winter (as with my spare bedroom) you can end up with a damp problem. We kept our spare clothes in the wardrobe in the winter and without any heat for the coldest couple of months the stuff went moldy. So be sure to warm it enough that that won’t happen.

  • Hah, that’s such a clever idea! I’ve got to admit, when I first read the title I thought you were going to say block off the room so you don’t buy things to put in it 😉

    Thanks for the tip, in the summer my AC bills are through the roof! Luckily I’m on baseboard heating so it’s pretty cheap.

    Happy New Year!

    • @Listen, haha, that wouldn’t stop my wife from throwing stuff into a room…it would just encourage her. We have one room that I’m supposed to clean out for our bedroom while we remodel our current bedroom, but every time guests come, she throws everything into that room. In the case of our living room, we’re still using the blanket, but we just need my father-in-law’s time to put up some nice doors to the room. I wish we had baseboard through the house so we could control it more (like my wife’s parents do), but we have central forced air added in decades after the house was built and it’s just not cutting it. It’s a waste and I know now that our next house better have a very good HVAC system!

  • My husband and I (empty-nesters) live in a 2-bedroom 12 X 60 mobile home built in 1968 but totally renovated in 1989. We have an ongoing argument about the advisability of hanging an insulated drape at the entrance to the hallway. The furnace (old but well-maintained) is forced hot air oil and we have built-in wall A/Cs in LR and master BR. I feel the drape keeps the heated or cooled air where it belongs – in the living area. And that is where the thermostat for the furnace is. There is a reasonable amount of heat that escapes into the unheated area even when the vents are closed. When the A/C in the BR is used, the door is closed, trapping the cool air in there. He feels we should just leave the whole 12 X 60 area open. Who is right? Our electric bills are not excessively high either in summer or winter.

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