12 Tips To Lower Your Heating Bill

Jan 24, 2014: The cost of energy is rising everyday. Whether it be electricity, gas, water or sewage, our utility bills are becoming higher with each passing month. Consequently most of us are looking for ways to trim our energy expenses and boost our savings. The cost of heating our houses in winter is always a major concern.

The U.S. Department of Energy estimates that a typical U.S. family spends about $1,900 a year on home utility bills? Unfortunately, a large portion of that energy is wasted.

Save Energy - Lower Your Heating BillFigure 1: How We Use Energy in Our Homes - Heating accounts for the biggest chunk of a typical utility bill [1].

Entrepreneurial or DIY (Do It Yourself) homeowners can cut down their monthly heating bills by taking action early on. Here are a dozen simple ways to slash our home's heating bills. We've divided them into two bunches of six each. The first bunch consists of easy steps which will not cost us a dime. The second bunch comprises of low cost fixes within our budget.

6 Easy & FREE Steps

1. Lower Your Thermostat

Lower Your ThermostatThe rule of thumb [2] is that we can save about 3% on our heating bill for every degree that we set back our thermostat. Another neat trick is to turn down the thermostat 10 degrees when we go to work, and again when we go to bed which accounts for at least a total of 16 hours a day. This could save us about 14% on our heating bill [2].

2. Turn Down The Water Heater
Turn Down The Water Heater
If we lower the temperature of water in the water heater to 115-120 degrees, it often reduces power use without a noticeable difference to the user [2].

3. Clear Heating Vents

Make sure that no vents are blocked by rugs and furniture. This prevents heated air from circulating efficiently which in turn means higher heating bills.

Use Fans Efficiently4. Optimize The Use Of Fans

A hard-working bathroom or kitchen fan can expel a houseful of warm air in just one hour [3]. So perhaps it'd pay off to shut them down as soon as our job is finished.

5. Close The Fireplace Damper

Close The Fireplace DamperAn open damper is like a hole in the roof. Since heat rises, an open damper is a sure shot means to lose heat. Moreover fires actually sucks heat from a room, so it might be a good idea to limit the use of a fireplace [2]. An easy way out is to shut the vents inside and close off seldom-used rooms.

6. Make Use Of Curtains

Use curtainsDuring the day time we can open curtains and shades on south-facing windows to allow solar radiation to warm a living space. Similarly we can close all curtains at night to minimize the escape of heat.

Heat Loss From A HouseThermal PhotoFigure 2: Heat Loss from a House - This thermal photograph shows heat leaking from a house during those expensive winter heating months. The white, yellow, and red colors show heat escaping. The red represents the area of the greatest heat loss [4].

Low Cost Fixes Within Our Reach

1. Winterize Windows

Winterize WindowsDuring the cold winter months we can use a heavy-duty, clear plastic sheet on a frame or tape clear plastic film to the inside of our window frames. The plastic must be sealed tightly to the frame to help reduce infiltration. Windows that feel drafty after weatherizing can be insulated by installing tight fitting window shades.

2. Use Storm Windows

Use Storm WindowsStorm windows can reduce heat loss through the windows by 25% to 50% [4]. We can install exterior or interior storm windows which are made of strong, durable materials and have interlocking joints. It's preferable to have weatherstripping at all movable joints of the storm windows. This saves even more energy.

If money is tight and we can't afford storm windows, we can use plastic film to cover those windows where a clear view isn't crucial. This will curb drafts and prevent the windows from rattling.

3. Use A Low-Flow Shower Head
Shower Head
A water-efficient shower head can use 25% to 50% less hot water, saving both on water and power bills [2]. And as a user chances are high that we'll not notice any difference at all.

4. Purchase A Smart Thermostat

Programmable ThermostatIf turning the thermostat up and down seems to be a painful job which we often forget to execute efficiently, we can get a "smart" thermostat that can be programmed to change temperatures automatically.

5. Get The Furnace In Shape

Maintain Your FurnaceIt might be a good idea to replace the air filter according to manufacturer's directions to make our heating system operate more efficiently. Often a clogged air filter can cause our heating unit to stop working. Oil-fired boilers should be cleaned and tuned annually, and gas systems, every two years. These simple steps can save us between 3% to 10% on heating bills [2].

6. Seal Leaks

Seal LeaksPlugging small gaps surrounding windows, doors and other areas can save us up to 10% on our heating bill [2]. The first step is to find the leaks. On a windy day, we can hold a lit incense stick to the most common drafty areas like chimney flashing, recessed lighting, sill plates, window and door frames, all ducts and electrical outlets to track the gaps. We can use door sweeps to close spaces under exterior doors, and caulk drafty spots around window frames. Movable joints can be weather-stripped. Outlet gaskets can be used in electrical outlets in our home's outer walls, where cold air often enters.

Save Money On HeatingThese home improvements will not only lower our heating bill but will also give us a chance to qualify for tax credits. Consumer Energy Tax Incentives [5] gives homeowners:
Consumers who purchase and install specific products, such as energy-efficient windows, insulation, doors, roofs, and heating and cooling equipment in existing homes can receive a tax credit for 30% of the cost, up to $1,500, for improvements "placed in service" starting January 1, 2009, through December 31, 2010.

In contrast to a deduction, which only decreases taxable income, a credit is a dollar-for-dollar reduction in taxes.

Since the cost of energy is higher this year, with some planning and action we can cut down on our heating bills. We look forward towards hearing your thoughts about saving money on keeping ourselves warm this winter. Please leave a comment :).

  1. 2009 Building Energy Data Book, Table 4.2.1
  2. American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy
  3. Department of Energy - Your Home
  4. Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy - Your home's energy use
  5. Consumer Energy Tax Incentives
Image Source(s): iStockPhoto

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