How to Lower Your Home Heating Bill

In my battle to save money on utilities, I looked for “no-cost” first, then “very low cost” means of reducing our total utility bills. I didn’t want to spend any more money than I had to!

In light of the fact that heating and cooling bills took the biggest bite out of our “utility budget” – a whopping 37%! – this specific area took top priority on my list. You will need to, as we did, find out exactly where you stand. We had to get our bearings, so to speak, and find out where we stood so we knew what direction to take. Dorothy and her Oz friends desperately sought the Emerald City… our quest was to find the “City of Savings”!

Home Energy Audits

The first thing on our agenda, as it should be on yours, is a home energy audit. You can call your electric or gas company and see if they offer such an audit, for free, or, for a modest fee. You can also perform your own no-cost audit, which is what we opted for. A home energy audit can help you figure out how much gas, electric, fuel oil, etc., your home uses annually. An audit can also show you how to make your home more energy-efficient. I guess you could say that a home energy audit just makes “dollars and sense!”

A Do-It-Yourself Audit

Professional energy auditors use specialized tests to check over your house with a “fine-tooth comb.” This type of audit can take several hours and cost several hundred dollars too!

If you opt to perform your own energy audit, as we did, there are certain items you’ll need to inspect. Take a pen and paper pad with you as you inspect your house so you can write down problems that you find.

Has Your House Sprung A Leak?

Ours is an older house. Even with a newer home, you may be surprised to find many leaky areas where hot/cold air is seeping inside/outside. We had already fixed the obvious problems, such as air leaks around outside doors and windows; lack of insulation in the attic, and things like that.

What we didn’t realize was that there were still drafts galore! Experts say if you have a significant number of drafts in your house, the heat loss is equivalent to leaving a door open all year ’round! Can you imagine?

What to Look For:

10-Point “Energy Eaters” Checklist

” Check for airflow around the exterior doors. Do the doors in your house rattle? If so, you may need to purchase some inexpensive weather-stripping. Follow the package instructions and apply where needed.

” What about the windows? Do you have broken or cracked panes? Do the windows seal tightly? Is the caulking in good condition? If the window frames don’t seal tightly, and you don’t have storm windows installed, you can purchase and install clear plastic sheeting that covers the windows and helps block out unwanted air. If you have storm windows installed, are they in good shape?

” Are there gaps along the baseboards of the outside walls?

” Chances are if you have a fireplace, there’s air leaking in/out through your fireplace damper when it’s not in use! Get yourself a large piece of thick Styrofoam. (We happened upon such a piece inside a shipped box.) Measure and cut the foam to fit snugly inside the opening of your fireplace. If you want it to match your decor, then simply cover the Styrofoam with fabric, or, decorate it however you may choose.

” What about attic doors? Do they close tightly? Make sure windows, chimneys, etc., in the attic are sealed and draft-free. If the attic is unfinished, is the area sufficiently insulated? Since heat rises, having sufficient insulation will keep more heat inside your house, rather than letting it flow out through the roof!

” Any wall or window-mounted air conditioners should be covered- when not in use, of course- with low-cost plastic covers.

” Check for open spaces around pipes and wires on the inside, as well as water faucets on the outside.

” Look for holes and cracks in the foundation of your home.

” Don’t forget to check basement doors and windows to make sure they are energy-efficient, especially if you own an older home.

” If your basement is not heated, check to see if there’s ample insulation under the first floor rooms. Are your furnace ducts insulated? What about the hot water pipes? You should buy and install an insulated blanket for your hot water heater too, if it doesn’t already have one. Follow the package instructions carefully for the best results.

” Don’t forget to check those crawl spaces under the house too! Make sure they’re insulated and sealed tight.

Holes, gaps, cracks, etc., should be sealed shut by using the appropriate product. Check at your local hardware to see what is available for every type of job.

The amount of energy you’ll save, is dependent on a variety of factors. You can realistically expect to slash your energy costs by 10%, 20%, 30% or more! With the average American family spending around $1400 a year on energy costs, which calculates out to a minimum savings of $140 dollars a year!

$ave Even More Here!

Now that you have conducted your energy audit, and have made the necessary minor repairs and fixes around your house to lower your heating and cooling expenses, here are some additional ideas to help you can save even more!

Energy Load Management Programs

Check with your energy provider on this one: we signed-up for an energy-saving program with our electric company. The program is easy, and it does save us a few bucks during the winter months on our electric bill.

Our electric company installed a remote control on our hot water heater. During bitter cold weather, the company issues periodic “Peak Alerts.” These alerts mean, that, while there is no shortage of electric, (as the radio spots tell us); the company recommends that their customers minimize electricity use during these times.

The purpose of the “Peak Alerts” is to lower the demand, thus reducing the cost of electricity per kilowatt. During these alerts, our hot water is automatically shut off. We do limit our electricity use in other ways too.

Thus far, we have experienced only a few cold showers, so, to us, this program is worth every dollar it saves us!

Call your local energy provider to find out what types of energy-saving programs are available in your area.

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