Save on Heating Bills without Expensive Improvements

Posted by Matthew Lahti on Monday, March 4th, 2013 at 12:46am

Are you dreading the cold weather more than usual this year? Energy costs are higher than ever.

Are you dreading the cold weather more than usual this year? Energy costs are higher than ever. People everywhere are doing all they can to stretch their hard-earned dollars. Replacing windows and adding insulation to walls can be too cost-intensive for homeowners on a budget, and aren’t an option for renters. These tips will save you money on your heating bills without expensive upgrades – whether you use natural gas, propane, electric, or wood heat to warm your house.

Some utility companies provide free evaluations to pinpoint energy zappers in customers’ homes. Taking advantage of a program like this removes guesswork and allows you to make sound decisions for what to do immediately while planning for costlier improvements later. However, some utility inspections are thorough, while others look only at certain common leaks. If that’s the case, you’ll find many steps you can take on your own will still improve your energy bill.

Let’s get the most expensive tips out of the way right up front: the ones regarding insulation. Icicles forming along your roofline after a snowfall are a sure indicator that your home’s insulation is suffering. Over a period of years, attic insulation becomes less effective. Although it can cost a few hundred dollars to hire someone to blow fresh insulation into your attic, the savings you’ll see in just a couple of months will often recover the expense. Even in areas where it rarely snows, poor attic insulation can raise energy bills. A visual inspection can help you evaluate your heat loss. Both blown and rolled insulation should rise a couple of inches above the rafters and be evenly distributed. If you see the wood joists crossing the floor, heat is escaping unnecessarily.

If you have a basement garage, consider installing insulating the ceiling to keep the living area above it comfortable. Like attic insulation, this may cost a couple hundred dollars up front, but the savings are recouped quickly. It might even put a stop to that game of thermostat tag that seems to take place in so many families!

Whew! Let’s shift to inexpensive and free methods of saving energy.

Drafty windows and doors can be the biggest heat hogs in your home. To check if they’re stealing your heat, hold a lighted match or incense stick near the frame and watch where the smoke travels. Do this at several points along each frame to check seals. If the smoke drifts toward through the window or doorframe, consider adding inexpensive weather stripping and/or putty to seal the heat indoors. (Your local home improvement store can help you if you need further instruction.)

Weather stripping should seal your attic access door, especially if it located in a hallway near your thermostat. While you’re at it, ensure the attic door is sized properly. In summertime wood expands, so you don’t want it to fit too snugly, but a loose or worn panel can prove to be a costly leak.

Similarly, gaps between pipes or baseboards and the drywall panels can leech heat from your home, yet they can be easily sealed with caulk for just a few dollars. While you’re at it, check for mortar cracks or leaks around the fireplace and seal them, too. (This is also a good time to verify that the flue is closed and no daylight is visible through it.)

Clean vents and radiators provide better heat flow. As a bonus, your air quality will improve, too. Replace furnace filters each month (or clean them if you use non-disposable filters) to prevent your furnace from working overtime and wearing out prematurely.

If furnishings or rugs impede airflow, it forces your furnace to work harder, too. By pulling furniture away from the wall just an inch or two, the heat will flow better inside your home.

Take advantage of sunny windows during the day. The heat that’s absorbed by your floors, walls, and furniture will keep being released after you draw the drapes closed for the evening. Trimming trees that block sunlight will help maximize this benefit.

Finally, set your thermostat just a few degrees lower than you normally do. Each degree you raise it can add one to five percent to your energy bill. Though estimates vary due to many variables, such as the size of a home or the type of thermostat used, this is the most direct method of saving money.  If the temperature change is four degrees, your body will probably not notice the difference, but you’ll save up to 20% every month.

It’s easy to make your home more energy-efficient without spending on costly new windows, doors, or furnaces. Your heating bill will shrink noticeably without major sacrifices in comfort or expenses this winter if you take these steps to get the most benefit from what you already have.

By Kathy Batesel

 

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