CHICAGO (1/21/09)--Despite the recent fall in energy prices, it’s estimated that, on average, home heating costs will fall only 2% below last year’s prices as winter tightens its icy grip across the country (Chicagotribune.com
Jan. 12). If you heat your home with natural gas, you even may end up paying more than last year. And a survey released by the National Energy Assistance Directors’ Association suggests a record 7.3 million households will seek fuel aid from various energy assistance programs this season (Forbes.com
Jan. 13). Because the price to heat your house may not be heading south for the winter, there are several ways you can reduce heating costs and save some cold hard cash:
* Turn down your water heater temperature. The higher the temperature, the more energy it uses. Adjust the setting to 120 degrees, which still keeps your dishwasher cleaning effectively, allows for comfortable showers, and saves you money. It also helps reduce the dangers of hot water scalds. * Wrap it up. Use a special insulation blanket for your water heater, available at your local hardware store. Blankets will prevent heat from escaping and help the unit run more efficiently. * Avoid the thermostat shuffle. Save up to 1% on your heating bill for every degree you turn down your thermostat. Set your thermostat in the 66 degree- to 70-degree range while you’re at home and awake, and in the 60 degree- to 65-degree range while you’re away or asleep. Turning the heat much lower when you leave your home and then cranking it back up when you return actually makes your system work harder, reduces its efficiency, and costs you more; contact your local utility and ask what a “safe” low temperature is for your region. * Check for leaks. Can you feel cold air around windows, doors, and even electrical outlets? A small investment in caulk, weather stripping, door sweeps, or insulated outlet covers for drafty areas will block heat from escaping and save you a bundle. * Cut shower time. The more hot water used during a shower means more energy use and money down the drain. * Check insulation. Installing the proper amount of insulation material to attics, basement ceilings, and exterior walls keeps the heat in and the cold out. * Service your system. A furnace, heat pump, or other heating equipment in top operating condition will heat your home more efficiently. Clean or replace dirty air filters. Clean and tune up your gas furnace, if you have one. This also helps ensure your equipment lasts a long time and prevents costly repairs.
For more information, read “Tips to Cool Down Your Hot Water Bill” and “Longevity on the Home Front: How Long Will That Furnace Last?” in Home & Family Finance Resource Center