It is always possible to save money on heating bills by making some minor improvements. Low income households may qualify for weatherization expenses through state-administered programs.
In this season of political positioning, it seems like all we hear about it the need for American energy “independence;” otherwise known as being free from the need to import foreign oil and the political concessions that may require. But the discussion of energy independence isn’t limited to a presidential debate; homeowners are also interested in freeing themselves from high energy bills, especially when cold weather approaches.
Is your home in need of an “Energy Efficiency Makeover”?
According to the U.S. Department of Energy, drafts can account for up to 30% of your home energy usage. While you could certainly tackle some of the problem by utilizing a good old-fashioned draft snake, that isn’t always enough. Remember, drafts could also be giving your thermostat a false reading so it’s important to look for other solutions for energy efficiency.
Here are some important steps to take if you want to achieve “home energy independence” –
- Replace and clean your furnace filters every month, especially during the heating season. Dirty furnace filters restrict airflow and increase the demand on your furnace in colder months. Why not make a check mark on a specific date on your calendar to remind you to make the switch. Alternatively, look for long-life air filters that are designed to last 3 months or longer. Better yet, switch to a permanent electrostatic filters. They trap about 88 percent of debris, compared to disposable filters which only trap 10 – 40 percent. A genuine HEPA filter can remove 99.7 percent of airborne particles, and come recommended by the U.S. Department of Energy.
- Drain air conditioner pipes and any hoses. Turn off your exterior water spigots and make sure any hoses are drained and stored neatly. Don’t forget to remove any window air conditioner units and store them away for the winter.
- Turn down your hot water heater. While many conventional hot water heaters are set to a standard 140 degrees, most households don’t need quite that much steam. Lowering the temperature to about 120 degrees F will reduce the cost of hot water by 6 to 10 percent.
Keep in mind that if you need to replace your air conditioner unit, hot water heater or furnace, there are some federal tax credits available. The more environmentally-friendly your system, the greater the tax credits will be, so be sure to take advantage of them.
- Install a storm door. While this may seem like a simple renovation, adding a storm door can improve energy efficiency by up to 45%. Look for an Energy Star-certified model. They are highly effective in sealing drafts and restricting air flow, plus they can also let in natural light and ventilation all year-round.
- Put in the storm windows. Similar to storm doors, storm windows can help keep your home well insulated from storms. It may not be your favorite chore, but it’s well worth getting them out of the she or the attic before the cold weather begins.
- Give your furnace a “tune up.” You probably already know the importance of regular tune-ups for automobiles, but did you know that it’s just as important to tune up your heater? Schedule a service visit now before the heating season begins. This is also a good time to get a special deal on HVAC inspections.
- Turn the heat down. This may seem obvious, but few people realize how keeping a close eye on the thermostat can reduce their heating bill. It is much easier to keep tract of this when you have a programmable thermostat. Or take it a step further by asking your local utility company to install a smart meter.
- Pick up a window insulation kit. Surprisingly, for just a few dollars each year you can pick up an easy window insulation kit at a local hardware store. When properly installed, window plastic should be invisible, yet it acts a buffer against drafts that are caused by extra air space in your window. Find out how much a simple thing like this can boost your home’s ability to hold heat.
- Measure your savings with an Energy Monitor. Many people don’t realize this; but there is a simple device that can measure your electrical usage in real time, while projecting your monthly expenditure for electric utilities. If you want to reduce your energy consumption, look for a TED (The Energy Detective), starting at $139.
- Check the corners, chimneys and gaps in the foundation. Wherever you see wires exiting your foundation or when corners meet at a chimney on your roof, you could be losing hot or cold air. Once identified, there are plenty of ways to weatherize your home to prevent these drafty spaces from affecting your energy bill.
Regardless of your financial situation, it is possible to save money on heating bills this winter. Low income households may qualify for weatherization improvements through state-administered government programs. Contact your local energy agency to find out more.