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Cut the Costs of Home Heating
Keep warm and comfortable this winter and lower your utility bills with some energy-efficient home improvements.
- Photo: alaska-in-pictures.com
Making homeowners’ heating systems energy-efficient is the answer to lower utility bills, the experts say. Thankfully, there are a number of ways to do that.
Simple Steps to Take
According to the Department of Energy (DOE), heating and cooling account for 50 to 75 percent of energy used in the average American home. Making smart decisions about your home's heating, ventilating and air conditioning (HVAC) system can have a big effect on your utility bills and your comfort.
To have an efficient heating system, you must properly maintain it. Check your unit’s filter monthly and if it looks dirty, change it. At a minimum, change the filter every three months. A dirty filter will slow down airflow and make the system work harder to keep you warm or cool, which wastes energy. Clean filters also prevent dirt from building up in the system, which can lead to expensive repairs in the future.
Installing a programmable thermostat, which costs around $200, and setting it to a lower temperature—even by a degree or two—can impact costs. The installation is a relatively easy DIY job.
Lowering the temperature on your water heater from 140 degrees to 120 degrees can also save you 6 to 10 percent a year on energy bills.
Get an annual HVAC inspection to keep the system running efficiently. Typical maintenance includes checking thermostat settings, tightening all electrical connections, lubricating moving parts, and inspecting the condensate drain and system controls. In addition, checking all gas or oil connections will alleviate the chances for dangerous gases escaping into your home.
Leak-Proofing Your Home
Air leaks raise a home’s energy bill and make a house drafty and uncomfortable in cold weather. “Much of our existing older housing today would not meet today’s stricter energy codes,” says Bohdan Boyko, an energy-efficiency specialist with U.S. GreenFiber, a manufacturer of natural fiber insulation in Charlotte, NC. “We have learned an awful lot in the last 20 years about window technology, the requirements for higher R values of insulation and about more efficient HVAC systems.”
To find out how drafty your home is, call your local utility company or a certified heating technician to request a home energy audit. Costs average around $400. A technician will usually set up a “blower door” test that measures a home’s air tightness and use an infrared camera to check for temperature differences anywhere leaks occur.
You should also check the air tightness in your home yourself. In older homes, leaks can usually be found around windows, doors and fireplaces. Other less obvious places to look are electrical sockets on exterior walls, baseboards, ductwork, and recessed lighting. ”Recessed lighting is a huge energy-waster where heat will escape up past the lights and into the attic,” Marowske says.
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