Amid dropping temperatures and rising heating bills, strategies to lower your heating bill may be sorely needed this winter. The U.S. Energy Information Administration recently projected that if winter is even a little colder than usual, energy bills could rise 15% for households that get their heat from electricity. Those who heat their home with natural gas might see a 50% jump, and households using heating oil and propane could see rates climb 59% and 94%, respectively.
Read on for strategies to counteract those rising heat bills, including affordable fixes and pricier investments:
— Plug leaks in your home.
— Invest in new windows.
— Utilize heating hacks.
— Install solar panels.
— Buy a smart thermostat.
— Run ceiling fans.
— Draw the shades.
Cheap Fix: Plug Leaks in Your Home
Make sure your house is properly insulated, says Steve Hoffins, vice president of marketing in windows and doors at Cornerstone Building Brands in Cary, North Carolina. He suggests looking at your walls, floors and ceilings, as well as the perimeters of doors, windows, appliances and other points of air infiltration for proper insulation.
The Environmental Protection Agency estimates that homeowners can save an average of 15% on heating and cooling costs by air sealing their homes and adding insulation in attics, floors over crawl spaces and accessible basement rim joints.
You don’t necessarily have to spend a lot of money to fix your leaks, according to Hoffins. Spray foam may work fine. Granted, it may not shave 15% off your heating costs, but any heat that you can keep from escaping your home should help reduce your bill.
Expensive Fix: Invest in New Windows
It’s a sad fact that to save big on heating costs in the long run, you have to spend money in the short term. But if drafts are getting into your home, you’re fighting something of a losing battle. At some point, investing in your home will become inevitable.
Many new windows come with energy-savings features that will allow you to heat your home for less, Hoffins says.
“Almost all windows on the market today have double-pane insulated glass units, but many manufacturers even offer upgrades to triple-pane glass, insulating spacers and even argon and krypton gas filling for maximum efficiency,” Hoffins says.
According to HomeAdvisor, the average cost of replacing one window is $850, and the price generally ranges between $300 and $2,100.
But keep in mind that this investment will eventually pay off. The U.S. Department of Energy points out that windows are responsible for 25% to 30% of residential heating and cooling energy use.
Cheap Fix: Utilize Heating Hacks
If you can’t afford new windows or doors, you might consider a temporary fix involving bubble wrap and tinfoil from Chris Harvey, head of marketing at Stelrad Radiator Group, a U.K.-based company.
“If you suffer from drafty windows, a quick and easy hack to keep the heat on the right side of the window is to cover the inside of your windows with bubble wrap,” Harvey says. “This will trap the air and keep the warm air circulating through the room.”
Sure, it won’t look like something out a home decorating magazine. But if it means you’re warmer and saving money, who cares?
Harvey has another hack: “If you have a radiator attached to an external wall, don’t let the cold wall suck up your precious warmth,” he says. “Instead, put some aluminum foil behind the radiator. The reflective nature of the aluminum foil will stop heat from disappearing through the wall and reflect it back into the room. Simple, but highly effective.”
Expensive Fix: Install Solar Panels
Like windows, solar panels are an expensive home improvement.
“We have installed solar energy systems that range from $10,000 to hundreds of thousands — the price all depends on the amount of rooftop or ground mount space available, the shading of the property and how much solar energy the homeowner or business owner wants the system to produce,” says Jayson Waller, founder & CEO of Powerhome Solar, a solar panel rooftop installation and energy efficiency services company operating throughout 15 states.
“Many homeowners are including the battery storage option, and while that adds cost, it gives consumers additional peace of mind for potential blackouts,” he adds.
No, it isn’t cheap, but as Waller says, since solar panels are typically financed, “all of the energy the panels produce is completely free once the loan is paid off.”
So once you pay for the solar panels, you eliminate your electric bill — during the winter, spring, summer and fall.
Cheap Fix: Buy a Smart Thermostat
A smart thermostat, which can automatically adjust your home’s heating and cooling system when you’re at home or away, typically costs a couple hundred dollars and can make a dent in your utility bill, says Kiki Dikmen, CEO of Choice! Energy Management, an energy procurement and utility management company based in Houston.
How much will a smart thermostat trim off your bill? According to Nest, a popular smart thermostat, a household will typically save 10% to 12% on their heating costs and 15% on their cooling. These thermostats can be programmed to change the temperature when people aren’t home, so that you’re not keeping a home toasty around the clock.
“Other savings measures would be to insulate pipes and insulation throughout the house, use LED light bulbs, and make sure none of the air vents are blocked,” Dikmen says.
That last tip is a good one: If your sofa sits over an air vent, you’re making it that much harder to heat your home. Moving furniture may not seem like an energy-saving strategy, but it actually could save you a little on your heating costs.
Cheap Fix: Run Ceiling Fans
If you have ceiling fans, use them. And the best way to do so in the colder months is to run them “in the normal forward mode at the lowest setting in order to force warm air back down from the ceiling,” says Jordan Hobfoll, CEO of Energy Simply, which owns GetEnergySimply.com, which specializes in helping Texans find the best electricity plans.
Cheap Fix: Draw the Shades
Hobfoll points out that if you pull your shades down, you can reduce heat escaping through the window, especially if they are tight-fitting and insulated cellular window shades.
But you don’t have to completely live in the dark. “Make sure your south-facing windows are letting the sunlight in when it is sunny, since the sun will still warm your home even on a cold day,” Hobfoll says.
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