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Home heating costs leave many in the cold

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NEW YORK (1/24/12)--Many homeowners are being left in the cold this winter when it comes to the cost of heating their homes. The U.S. Energy Information Administration estimates that homes using oil heat can expect to pay $2,383 on average this season, compared with an average of $671 for homes using natural gas for heating (money.cnn.com Jan. 12).

Why such a disparity? The same factors that drive fuel prices higher--such as refineries closing and uncertainty overseas--also affect heating oil prices (cbsnews.com Jan. 17).

Fight the frigid temps and save on heating costs with these suggestions:

  • Service systems. Keep your furnace, heat pump, or other heating equipment in top operating condition to heat your home efficiently as well as safely. Clean or replace dirty air filters. Clean and tune up your gas furnace, if you have one. Regular maintenance also helps ensure that your equipment lasts a long time and prevents costly repairs, not to mention service outages when you need heat most.
  • Improve insulation. The proper amount of insulation material keeps the heat in and the cold out. Make sure you have the correct amount installed in attics, basement ceilings, and exterior walls.
  • Diminish drafts. A small investment in caulk, weather stripping, door sweeps, or insulated outlet covers for drafty areas will block heat from escaping and save money, too.
  • Tune temperatures. Set your thermostat in the 60- to 65-degree range while you're away or asleep and in the 66- to 70-degree range while you're at home and awake. Turning the heat lower than 60 degrees when you leave and cranking it back up when you return actually makes your system work harder, reduces its efficiency, and costs you more.
  • Shorten showers. The more hot water you use during a shower means more energy use and money down the drain. Reduce the water temperature and shorten the time you spend in the shower to help save money.
For more energy-saving information, read, "Debunk Energy-Savings Myths" in the Home & Family Finance Resource Center.