You Can Save On Winter Heating This Season

You Can Save On Winter Heating This Season

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Consumers who heat their homes with natural gas or oil are looking for a nice present this year. As the price of a barrel of oil has dropped so has the cost of home heating fuel, but maybe not enough of a dip to help avoid an overall increase in costs over last year. For people who heat their homes with electricity prices will most certainly increase, putting pressure on cost strapped families.

“The average U.S. household will spend $2,300 on home energy this year – 7 percent more than last thermostat
year and 12 percent more than in 2006 – with winter heating bills taking a large ‘bite’ out of household budgets going into next year,” noted Alliance to Save Energy President Kateri Callahan. “At a time of financial stress and strain for many, simple yet effective energy-saving steps are the way to go – not only to save money, but also to make homes more comfortable and help protect the environment.

The Alliance suggests the following winter home energy tips:

— Smart Fix – Plug up leaks to the outside – Seal air leaks with sealant, caulking, and weather stripping; and install appropriate insulation for your climate to increase your comfort, make your home quieter and cleaner, and reduce your heating (and summer cooling) costs up to 20 percent. In 2009, these energy efficiency improvements can also generate a federal income tax credit of up to $500 for 10 percent of the cost of the materials (but not installation).

— Properly maintain your HVAC system. Just as a tune-up for your car can improve your gas mileage, a yearly tune-up of your heating and cooling system can improve efficiency and comfort. Consider a semi-annual or yearly professional “tune-up” of the system to ensure it is working efficiently. The federal government’s ENERGY STAR website can help you find a qualified individual — please see www.energystar.gov/index.cfm?c=heat_cool.pr_contractors_10tips.

— Keep furnace filters clean. Check your filter every month, especially during heavy use months (winter and summer), and change it if it looks dirty. At a minimum, change the filter every 3 months. A dirty filter will slow down air flow and make the system work harder to keep you warm or cool – wasting energy. A clean filter will also prevent dust and dirt from building up in the system – leading to expensive maintenance and/or early system failure.

— Let a programmable thermostat “remember for you” to lower the heat while your home is empty and/or overnight to reduce heating costs by up to 10 percent – and allow you to come home to and wake up to a toasty, comfortable house.

— Consider installing ENERGY STAR qualified heating and cooling equipment. If you have to replace your HVAC equipment, consider a unit that has earned the ENERGY STAR. Installed correctly, these high-efficiency units can save up to 20 percent on heating and cooling costs. Certain highly efficient models qualify for a federal income tax credit in 2009.

— Seal your heating and cooling ducts. In a typical house, about 20 percent of the air that moves through the duct system is lost due to leaks, holes, and poorly connected ducts. Sealing and insulating ducts increases efficiency, lowers home energy bills, and can often pay for itself in energy savings. Also, a well-designed and sealed duct system may make it possible to downsize to a smaller, less costly heating and cooling system that will provide better dehumidification. Insulate ducts in unheated areas such as attics, crawlspaces, and garages with duct insulation that carries an R-value of 6 or higher.

— Insulate your hot water storage tank according to manufacturer’s directions (being careful not to cover the thermostat or the burner compartment in an oil- or natural gas-powered tank) and the first six feet of the hot and cold water pipes connected to the water heater, too.

— Open curtains and other window treatments on your west- and south-facing windows during the day to allow sunlight to naturally heat your home, and close them at night.

— Go “window shopping” at www.efficientwindows.org to discover how high-performance ENERGY STAR-labeled windows can cut heating and cooling costs by as much as 30 percent while increasing indoor comfort and lessening fading of home furnishings. ENERGY STAR windows, too, are eligible for a federal tax credit in 2009 – 10 percent of the cost (but not installation) up to $200.

— Also look for the ENERGY STAR label, the symbol of energy efficiency, when replacing or buying appliances, electronics, lighting and many other product categories. See www.energystar.gov for details on all 50 types of products.

You can also save money on heating oil by joining an energy co-op. Visit http://www.pirgfuelbuyers.com/ for information on how this type of arrangement works and whether co-operative buying is right for you.

Source: Alliance to Save Energy

Adv. — Do you need some great gift ideas? Does the thought of venturing out to the mall have you stressed even feeling anxious? If so, then look for what you want to buy online! Visit nBuy Plaza to find better deals than your local strip mall. While there, print out Santa’s List and download your free Christmas Party Holiday Kit to help you plan your social events for the month of December, even beyond. Happy shopping!

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