Expectations of both colder weather and higher oil prices have the Energy Department forecasting a hike in residential heating bills. That's why it's important to check your home to insure your heating dollars aren't being wasted.
But there's a lot you can do to nip those heating costs in the bud:
- Check for leaks. Improperly sealed homes can waste 10 to 15 percent of the homeowner's heating dollars.
- Check around doors and windows for leaks and drafts. Add weather-stripping, and caulk any holes you see that allow heat to escape.
- Every duct, wire, or pipe that penetrates the wall or ceiling or floor has the potential to waste energy. Plumbing vents can be especially bad, since they begin below the floor and go all the way through the roof. Seal them all with caulking or weather-stripping.
- Electric wall plugs and switches can allow cold air in. Purchase simple-to-install, pre-cut foam gaskets that fit behind the switch plate and effectively prevent leaks.
- Close that damper - it's an effective energy-saving tip that costs you nothing! Of course the damper needs to be open if a fire is burning.
- Examine your house's heating ducts for leaks.
- Check your insulation. Insulate your attic.
- Check your heating system.
- Get a routine maintenance and inspection of your heating system each autumn to make sure it's in good working order.
- Replace your heater's air filter monthly.
- If your heating system is old, you might consider updating it. A pre-1977 gas furnace is probably 50 to 60 percent efficient today.
- Program your thermostat to allow you to automatically turn down the heat when you're away at work or when you're sleeping at night, and then boost the temperature to a comfortable level when you need it. It takes less energy to warm a cool home than to maintain a warm temperature all day long.
- Reverse the switch on your ceiling fans so they blow upward, toward the ceiling. Ceiling fans are a great idea in the summer when air blowing downward can improve circulation and make a room feel four degrees cooler. By reversing the fan's direction, the blades move air upward in winter. This is especially valuable in high ceiling rooms where heat that naturally rises is forced back down into the room.