Well, crude oil recently hit an all-time record price, just in time for winter. Chances are, you will be joining millions of us who are looking to save a little on our heating bills. There are products out there that cost so much that it cancels out any savings on your utilities. But, you don’t have to spend a lot to save in the long run.
If you have forced air heat, the easiest thing for you to check on is your thermostat. The only way to go is to get a programmable one. A price check on the website of a national home-improvement store chain shows that the lowest-priced Energy Star-rated model is only $29.00. If you follow the enclosed directions, you can easily replace your old one yourself. What makes a programmable thermostat such a wise choice is that it is a very efficient way to tailor your heating use to when you need it. In most models, you can set multiple programs over the course of the week, keeping the house cooler on weekdays when nobody is home, and keeping it warmer on weekends. We moved into a year-old house, and thought that our thermostat must be efficient because it was fairly new. On the contrary, it was little more than an on/off switch. Even though we set a target temperature, the thermostat would not shut off the furnace when that temp was reached. After installing a programmable thermostat, we noticed a $40.00 savings in the first month: the thermostat had paid for itself.
Everyone mentions weatherstripping around windows and exterior doors, but another place to check is the doorway to your basement or utility room. Cold air may be coming into your house at this point, and you don’t even realize it. Once again, our relatively new house benefitted from weatherstripping being nailed around the inside of that doorframe, and a simple adhesive-backed plastic doorsweep being stuck to the bottom edge of the door. Coat closets that are next to the front door are also areas where cold air can gather and leak into living areas (as they don’t have their own heat vents, they stay unheated).
You also don’t want to waste heat that may be going into rarely used rooms. If you have forced air vents in your floor, one very easy and inexpensive way to block these vents is to get magnetic sheets from your craft store. Pick them up on sale, or use the coupons that often appear in the Sunday paper. These are standard 8 Ã?Â½ x 11″ size and are made to go through a printer. Cut one sheet in half lengthwise, and you will have pieces to cover two vents.
Old fashioned draft stoppers are a great low-tech way to keep cold air from coming into your house. What’s even better is that they are super easy to make yourself. All you need is a tube, and some material to fill it with. The tube could be made from old sweater sleeves, a strip cut from worn flannel sheets, or you can get crafty and knit one yourself. For the filling, consider clean play sand or even rice or dried beans, if you can get a good deal.
Large windows are also a common source of heat loss. You may not be able to afford triple-glazed windows, but chances are that you can afford heavy curtains. They really do make a difference keeping the cold air out. You’ll especially notice it if your window had previously been covered only with blinds. You can get simple heavy curtains from a discount retailer, or get fancy and purchase special insulated fabric and make a shade system. One company that makes all of the materials you need to put together some serious energy saving shades is Warm Windows, made by, appropriately, the Warm Company.
These allow you to use fabrics that coordinate with your dÃ?Â©cor. One thing to remember, though: open the curtains when the sun is shining outside to allow a little passive solar heat into your house.
One final benefit your may get: a tax write-off. The Federal energy tax credit mainly covers such big expenses as new heating systems, but your state may offer its own tax programs. For example, our state offers a credit for everything from improving insulation to installing ceiling fans instead of central air conditioning. This can help you recoup some of your initial installation costs. Check the website for your state’s department of revenue to see if such a credit is offered. If so, you can probably get in some upgrades to your home before the end of the tax year. Just remember to keep your receipts!