As temperatures drop, home heating bills often go up.
Ways to reduce winter fuel costs range from simple, inexpensive changes to major home modifications. Here are some simple tips to stay comfortable and keep costs down this winter:
You don’t need to stay chilly to lower your heating bills. Strategically adjusting the thermostat — either by hand yourself or by installing a programmable thermostat to do it automatically on a schedule you choose — can keep your house cozy when it counts and save energy in between.
According to the U.S. Department of Energy, it pays to think in eight-hour segments. You can save as much as 1 percent on your fuel bill for each eight hours you set the thermostat back one degree. That means that if you set your thermostat back each night from 70° to 65° while you sleep, you could add a blanket to your bed and save as much as 5% on your heating costs.
The same holds true if you are out of the house at work for eight or more hours of the day. Keeping the house 10° or even as much as 15° lower when no one is home could result in significant savings. At the end of your work day, you’ll walk into a house that’s been saving energy all day but has returned to your comfort level.
Reduce Air Leaks
By sealing air leaks in a home, an average household can cut 10 percent of their monthly energy bill. Use caulk to seal any cracks or small openings on non-moving surfaces such as where window frames meet the house structure. Check your weather stripping in exterior door frames and replace any that is deteriorated or cracked.
Sealing windows and doors will help, but the worst culprits are may be utility cut-through’s for pipes (plumping penetrations), gaps around chimneys and recessed lights in insulated ceilings, and unfinished spaces behind cupboards and closets. You can buy material that expands to fill the gaps and keep air from flowing through.
Ductwork is an often overlooked source of leakage — in this case, warm air intended to heat your rooms may be seeping out of splits or gaps that have developed in the ducts. If your home is heated by forced air, examine the ductwork and use duct sealant or metal-backed tape on any leaks. Also check registers and grills to make sure they are tightly sealed to ducts.
The best way to know exactly what will reduce your home’s overall energy consumption is to hire a professional energy auditor to evaluate your home and identify all the inefficiencies. It may cost a couple hundred dollars, but it will save you much more than that over the long run.
In addition to showing where to tape, caulk and seal, the audit may suggest improvements that require a significant investment and a professional to address. Adding attic insulation, or upgrading to energy-efficient appliances and products such as new HVAC systems and high-performance windows will also help lower your heating bills.
For more information and tips, contact Energy Strategies, Inc. at www.energy-strategies.net who can also provide you with an in-home assessment of your energy consumption. If you need professionals to make any repairs or upgrades in insulation, new windows or general maintenance, check out the professionals that are members of the SCHBA at http://schba.org/member-directory/ of stop in at 637 Walton Drive, Plymouth, WI for a member directory.