Thrifty Ways to Heat your Home this Winter
This winter, the cost of heating a home is going to leave many people feeling anything but warm and cozy. In fact, those living in the coldest areas of the U.S., may well find themselves facing a home-heating crisis when trying to pay their bills. "We have a serious problem," said Dale McCormick, director of Maine's state housing agency. "This winter is going to be our (Hurricane) Katrina."
The first and most obvious way to save on home heating costs is to lower the thermostat. Experts claim that each degree saves as much as 3% on a monthly energy bill (with some variance depending on the specific heating method).
Keeping a house in good repair and well insulated is also important as is properly servicing your furnace and water heater. Consider negotiating for annual maintenance as part of any new furnace purchase and ask the contractor for conservation and saving tips specific to your house. Homeowners with oil furnaces might also consider joining a fuel co-op to reduce oil costs.
Surprisingly, small adjustments in everyday life can also result is significant cost savings. Consider the following:
- Keep window shades open to take advantage of the sun's natural heat. Prune back tree branches that might obstruct part of the sunlight, and remove any awnings over windows that might create cooling shadows. Cover bare floors with dark carpets that absorb the sun's energy and warm the room.
- Cover attic stairs with an insulated cover to block gaps between the stairs and the ceiling. Keep the heat in the home from escaping into the attic and the cold attic air from leaking into your house.
- Place a chimney stopper (an inexpensive, often inflatable plug) at the lowest part of the flue in your fireplace when it's not in use to prevent drafts. Remember to remove the plug before you light a fire.
- Cook consciously using the proper equipment. Use the smallest pot for the job and use a burner that most closely covers the entire heating element. Use a lid to keep heat in the pot which means using a lower heat or cooking for less time. Turn off the oven five minutes before the scheduled end time and allow food to finish cooking as the oven slowly cools. Organize meals to cook multiple dishes simultaneously. Above all, avoid opening the oven to check on food while it's cooking; this allows up to 50% of the heat to escape and increases cooking times.
- Use a ceiling fan on low setting to push rising hot air back down where residents can benefit from its warmth. Conversely, limit use of ventilation fans over stoves or in bathrooms which draw hot air out of a house.
- Wash full loads of dishes or clothing so fewer loads are necessary. But, do not overload machines as doing so causes the motor to work harder and consume more energy as well as produces more wear on the machines so they need to be replaced more quickly.
Smart consumers can lower their heating costs in many ways, some obvious and some less obvious. Using common sense and a little bit of extra effort and you will be warmer and wealthier this winter.