Heating is not only a necessity during winter months, but it’s also the number-one culprit for increasing utility bills during the cold season. Regardless of how you heat your home, with gas and electric being the two primary ways, you’re probably spending too much. Prevent unnecessary heating-related expenditures by taking advantage of some easy-to-implement, money-saving measures that won’t break the bank to undertake.
• Double-pane or extra thick windows, or even using storm windows, isn’t enough to prevent the loss of heat. It’s not just the loss of heat at risk, but also the introduction of cold air into your home. Feel the inside of your windows; during winter months, your windows are as cold, if not colder, than the air outside. Is it any wonder that you need to add extra blankets and quilts to your window-side bed? An easy way to solve this problem is to cover your windows with some type of plastic insulation. Kits are available at stores, and come pre-fitted for different sizes of windows. Or, to do the same at a lower cost, plastic wrap (the kind you use to wrap food) can be used. Rolls cost less than $3 and will provide enough material to cover several windows. Get added protection by covering windows with two or more layers of plastic wrapping. You may need to get someone to help, since the wrap tends to cling when you’re working with it.
• If you don’t want to cover your windows with protective plastic, look for where your windows may have grown away from your windowsills. In old houses especially, small gaps can develop, and through these gaps heat is lost. Locate the gaps by feeling for areas of cold near windows and not on windows. Fill gaps with cloth or towels.
• Leave your thermostat at a fixed temperature. Studies show that the most heat-efficient temperatures hover at around 68 degrees during the day, which is a temperature that most people find comfortable. Aim for 55 degrees at night, when you’re likely already snuggled deep inside a nest of blankets. You’ll use less energy keeping your thermostat fixed, and on a timer if you have one, than if you are turning the thermostat on and off. This type of fix can lead to as much as a 10% savings on your heating bill.
• If you have a fireplace, keep the damper closed. Open dampers will cause your home to lose heat. Along the same lines, close off any unused parts of your home. If you have baseboard heating, close vents in those rooms, which will direct more heat to the areas of your home that you use more often.
• Wear socks. It sounds silly, but the human body is just that. If your feet are cold, your entire body will feel cold. Keeping your feet warm means keeping your entire body warm. This means decreasing the need to increase the temperature in your home.
• When you leave your home, don’t leave the door open. If you have children, get them ready before you open your front door. Also, make sure you have everything you need before leaving. The more often you open your door, the more heat your home loses.
• Some utility companies offer a plan that lets you pay a fixed rate every month, regardless of utility usage. Your utility company will likely average your usage over a specific period of time and divide by 12. While you’ll pay more during months when your utility use is low, you’ll reap some savings during the winter. Also, paying a fixed monthly rate means you know how much to budget for utility costs.
Keep track of the energy-efficient changes you make, as well as any money you spend to make them. You can itemize these expenses, and receive up to a 10% tax credit of no more than $500. Qualifying improvements include adding insulation, adding a heat-reducing pigment coat of paint to a metal roof and adding energy-efficient windows, doors and skylights. Sorry, that plastic insulation doesn’t count as adding an energy-efficient window.
The Energy Information Administration expects the average household to spend about $950 this year on heating costs. Implementing some of these suggestions will make sure you’re not spending more than necessary. Take some preventive measures by looking for areas in your home that may contribute to increased heating costs. Implement easy fixes, and all you’ll have left to do is watch your soaring heating prices come back down to earth.