Shale Gas Truths
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  • Posted July 15, 2013

Top Ten Tips to Save Energy & Money on your Heating Bills

Home heating costs have continuously risen over years and the trend seems to be continuing. We had illustrated this in a previous blog, where we posted interactive charts for heating oil prices & propane prices based on historical data maintained by US EIA.

For the average homeowner, this can be a significant expense because heating costs now account for more than 2/3rds of the annual home energy costs.

However there are plenty of things that the homeowner can do to cut down on these costs. In this article, we'll provide you with 10 useful tips to save energy and money on your home heating bills.

1) Watch that thermostat

This one seems obvious but what's largely misunderstood is the amount of impact it can have on your heating bills. Generally speaking, you can save anywhere from 2-5% off your heating bill for every degree that you lower on your thermostat. At home you can wear an extra layer (did someone say "Snuggie"? - well maybe a sweater instead) and similarly while leaving for work you could lower the thermostat down 10-15 degrees. Likewise at bed time lower the thermostat by 10 degrees and your wallet will thank you for it!

In fact, you can automate this by installing a programmable digital thermostat which are available at most home improvement stores for $25-$75. Once installed, simply program your settings once and then forget about them. The small upfront cost can be recouped very quickly and your can reap the savings year over year!

2) Is your furnace tuned?

Oil-fired boilers should be tuned annually and gas furnaces every couple of years. Your local HVAC company will typically offer annual clean ups on the cheap during the off-season. Watch out for these coupons/offers and use them. A clean and well tuned heat-exchanger can save you anywhere from 5-10% during the heating season.

3) Shop for low Heating fuel prices

Price comparison sites such as offer a quick and easy platform where heating oil & propane dealers advertise their daily lowest prices. Do some comparison shopping and save money each time you buy heating fuel.

4) Check your water heater setting

You can typically get 5-10% savings if the water heater thermostat is lowered to 115-125 degrees. And often times this can be done without a noticeable impact to end users. However you may have to curb simultaneous usage of hot water such as running the washer while taking a shower etc. Tankless water heaters (which don't store hot water and rather heat it on demand) are also something to consider but can often be expensive.

You can also save energy by wrapping exposed hot water pipes with an insulation sleeve or similar products, especially when they run through uninsulated areas.

5) Check your insulation

Your insulation may be old or inefficient, especially if you live in an older home. Newer more energy efficient insulation such as cellulose are environmentally green products which can prevent leaks thru your attic. Often times, you may have to add just a few inches of insulation (instead of replacing everything) and it can be blown in within a few hours.

Moreover cost incurred with insulation may also qualify for energy-improvement tax credit!

6) Watch out for leaks

If your spouse complains of a draft, don't ignore it! Chances are there is a leak around your windows or doors or around the fireplace. For your windows you can install shrink wrap; for doors you can use door sweeps; for fireplace and other openings you can buy spray foam which can be easily sprayed into the openings. There are plenty of websites and blogs which go into details and discuss choices and installation tips for each of these options. Plugging these leaks can often result in a substantial 5-10% savings.

7) Replace your air filter

This is one of the easiest things that a homeowner can do (and often the most overlooked) to keep their furnace and blower in shape. These are available at all home improvement stores for $5-$10 and can significantly reduce the load on your blower and improve home air quality.

8) Is your fireplace damper open?

A fireplace damper is a important source from which hot air can leak out and cold air can come inside. Its easy to forget about an open damper, since they are typically not visible and continually waste heat in the process!

9) Use curtains and blinds more effectively

Curtains and blinds, if left open during the day can warm up a room via solar radiation. However don't forget to close them at night and they will prevent the heat from radiating out.

10) Get a Home Energy Audit

Some states have started offering these at no cost to the homeowner. E.g. the Commonwealth of Massachusetts has a program called MassSave under which they offer a Free Energy Audit. Check out if your state offers something similar.

These audits cover most of the suggestions that were mentioned in this article and a few more. Often times they also offer the homeowner good discounts to perform suggested home energy improvements.

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