Reducing home heating costs is an obviously energy efficient way to save money. But according to experts, heating your home will be more costly this year. Heating bills will rise 20 percent for heating oil customers, 15 percent for natural gas customers, 13 percent for propane customers and 5 percent for electricity customers.
No matter what fuel you use, heating your home this winter will cost more. So, it's a great time to take stock of the projects that can help you really save cold, hard cash by reducing home heating costs. Here is where to begin:
Clock set-back thermostat. Want to conserve heat at night but avoid waking up to a cold house in the morning? Clock thermostats with a set-back feature can lower your heat automatically at night while you're asleep, and then raise it in the morning. These smart thermostats conserve heat, save you money, and still give you warmth and comfort when you need it.
You can get a clock thermostat at any home improvement center and they can be installed easily in less than an hour. There are even models available that have several on/off cycles. For example, you can set the thermostat to have the heat come up at one time during the week, and another on weekends when you sleep in.
If you do have a setback thermostat, move it two degrees lower than you normally would in the winter and raise it two degrees in the summer. Doing this can cut your annual heating AND cooling bills by more than 10%!
Insulate water heaters. Insulating your water heater is a very quick project that costs only a few dollars. Water heaters lose heat through their outside shells. For about ten dollars, you can buy a water heater jacket or blanket that keeps heat from escaping. They're easy to install, and can save hundreds of dollars on your energy bills over the life of the heater.
Another good tip is to turn down your water heater's temperature setting to a safe but efficient 120 degrees instead of the potentially scalding 140 degrees most water heaters are set at. If you have an electric water heater, you can also cut the cost of running it in half by installing a timer. Electric water heaters are the most expensive way to produce hot water and a timer will allow the water to be heated only when necessary, like for your morning shower. The rest of the day the timer turns the heater off - saving you lots of energy dollars, and reducing home heating costs.
Attic insulation inspection. You can increase the comfort of your home while reducing home heating costs and cooling needs by up to 30 percent by investing just a few hundred dollars in proper insulation and weatherization products. To tell if your home measures up to today's insulation standards, take a ruler to your attic. In most cool climates, you need at least 12 inches of batt or blown insulation between your attic rafters to keep your home's heat indoors. Homes even a few years old are very likely to have inadequate insulation.
Although insulation can be made from a variety of materials, it usually comes in four types of batts, rolls, loose-fill, and rigid foam boards. Each type is made to fit in a different part of your house. Fiberglass batts and rolls are excellent for new-construction walls and ceilings, and for attics and crawlspaces in existing homes. Blown-in insulation, available in fiberglass or cellulose ( a paper product coated with fire retardant) can be used in attics or existing walls.
While you are in your attic, check for drafts - it's the one place you want them! Good attic ventilation is the key to keeping insulation from getting damp from winter condensation. Since even slightly damp insulation loses as much as one-third of its ability to insulate, a well-ventilated attic is important. By reducing moisture, insulation will be more effective and leave you with a warmer house, helping to reduce home heating costs.
Heating system maintenance. Did you know that performance enhancers can make your home more efficient while reducing home heating costs? No we're not talking about steroids or nutritional supplements, we're talking maintenance!
Seal out drafts. The exterior walls of your home are like Swiss cheese. Each "hole" for a window, door, outlet or light switch, is a source of air leakage. Sealing these openings from the inside can prevent serious drafts and energy loss, and reduce home heating costs.
Caulk window moldings where they meet the exterior wall. Use acrylic-latex caulk because it spreads easily and can be cleaned up with water. A good technique is to squirt a thin bead of caulk at the intersection of the wall and molding, and then use your finger to spread the caulk into the seam. Next, use a sponge and warm water to remove excess caulk and finish spreading the caulk. Don't forget to caulk under the sill as well. This area is particularly leaky and a good sealing job is important.
When you are done outside, caulk around the insides of door and window moldings. This helps trap any excess cold air that has gotten into the exterior wall cavities. Next, check the weather stripping on the exterior side of the door. If the weather stripping is worn or cracked, replace it. Also check the door sill at the base of the door. When closed, you should not be able to see light coming through the door.
Wall openings around outlets and switches can also let a blast of cold air into your house. Home centers and electrical supply houses sell special gaskets which keep drafts to a minimum. To install them, remove the outlet or light switch covers. The gaskets, which have openings to fit over the outlet or switches, are then placed between the device and the metal cover plate. Be sure you turn the electricity off before installing gaskets to avoid electric shocks.
More tricks and tips to lower home heating costs
Bottom line; energy efficiency in your home is easy to achieve with a few simple steps. Reducing home heating costs will save you a bundle, and everything you need to complete your projects is available at your neighborhood home center.