Erika Gonzalez Unlock Staff Writer
There are some amazing technologies available to help keep costs down.
You can still take a “hot” shower and save money and energy.
Don’t forget maintenance, like furnace filters. They need to be changed regularly.
Winter is coming – and in some parts of the country, it’s already here! As temperatures fall, naturally you can expect your home heating bills to rise.
Inflation and natural gas shortages are causing prices to spike, with households using natural gas expected to pay 28% more to heat their homes this winter, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration. Their estimates predict those depending on electricity could see an increase of 10%.
Finding ways to cut heating costs could be crucial, considering consumers are already dealing with higher prices for everything from food to travel to car repairs.
Invest in a smart thermostat. A programmable thermostat provides the ability to set different temperatures for when you’re sleeping or away from home. The U.S. Department of Energy estimates that lowering the temperature by 7 to 10 degrees during those times can save 10% annually in heating costs. Many smart thermostats also allow homeowners to establish different temperature schedules for weekdays, versus weekends or to adjust the temperature remotely. Prices for these smart devices can range anywhere from $50 for basic models to more than $250 for more sophisticated options. Several local utility companies offer rebates on certain models, so check your area to see what programs might be available.
Lower your water heater temperature. One way to reduce your heating bills that won’t cost you anything is to lower the temperature of your water heater to 120 degrees. Experts swear you won’t notice a difference and note that by making that small change, you’ll decrease your annual water heating expenses by 15%. A quick internet search should provide easy-to-follow directions for adjusting the setting.
Perform maintenance. Keeping your heating system operating smoothly and efficiently will help you maintain consistent temperatures and prevent heat loss. Replace your furnace filters regularly, clear vents of debris and dust and have your furnace serviced annually as part of your maintenance routine.
Seal windows and doors. Drafty windows and doors let cold air in and drive heating costs up. There are a variety of relatively inexpensive options for sealing doors and windows, from foam tape to caulk to a variety of weather-stripping materials. If you have leaky windows you don’t plan on opening until spring, consider installing shrink-to-fit plastic wrap, which can provide effective insulation for less than $25. Energy Star-rated energy efficient windows and fiberglass doors require a much bigger investment but are good for saving on energy costs long-term. And your purchase might qualify you for tax credits.
Change the direction of your ceiling fan. Run fans clockwise in the winter to push warm air down and keep heat from escaping upward.
Schedule a home energy audit. Many local utilities will send energy experts to your home to inspect your property and provide energy-efficient recommendations. Xcel Energy, which supplies energy to customers in eight states, including cold-weather spots Minnesota and North Dakota, has an “Energy Squad” that will come to your home for $50 and make efficient home improvements, such as installing smart thermostats or weatherstripping doors. They can also conduct virtual visits for $25, which include guidance on how to make improvements on your own as well as a customized kit filled with energy-saving items. A number of private companies also offer audits, but will likely charge more than your utility will.
If you do find yourself struggling to pay your heating bill, don’t forget that most states offer energy assistance programs for eligible residents to help them cover heating costs. Check your area for eligibility requirements. Your local utility might also offer assistance options, so be sure to search their website for more information.