The average homeowner using natural gas for heating will spend nearly $650 on heating costs this winter, according to the United States Department of Energy. Though utility costs vary greatly depending on home size, climate, energy choice and insulation, there are several easy, minimal-cost ways to keep your heating expenses down this winter.
Get Out the Space Heaters & Turn Down the Furnace
You can save 3 percent on heating costs for every degree below 70 F that you turn down your furnace. Use a space heater in the most commonly used area of your home. While other areas of your home will be cooler, a space heater that uses 1500 watts will only cost 14 cents an hour.
For fire safety and energy efficient reasons, when purchasing a space heater, choose one that has a thermostatic-control and is the proper size for the room you wish to heat. Use a space heater that does not have visible heating coils (common in older space heater models) and look for one that emits radiant heat.
Make DIY Door Draft Guards
If you spend a lot of time in just a few areas of your home, interior drafts can be just as troublesome for heating bills as exterior drafts. During the heating season, cut down on indoor air movement by making DIY door draft guards. Buy some pipe insulation, make a slit down the length and fit under doors to rooms that aren’t commonly used.
Give Your Furnace Some TLC
Having an HVAC professional take a look at your heating system can do wonders for your wallet and your system’s efficiency. Though a tune-up can cost $75 to $100, soot buildup, dusty or poorly lubricated fans, faulty pilot lights and loose fan belts can add hundreds to your heating bill each year.
On another note, if your furnace is 15 years or older, making strange sounds, requiring yearly maintenance calls, and your heating bills have skyrocketed, it might be time to invest in a new furnace.
Maximize Fireplace Efficiency
If you have a fireplace, put it to (proper) use. Follow these steps to maximize your fireplace’s efficiency:
- Keep the damper closed unless a fire is burning – an open damper is like an open window.
- Use grates made of C-shaped metal tubes to draw cool room air into the fireplace and push warm air back into the room.
- Hire a chimney sweep to inspect your fireplace and chimney, preferably before the heating season. They will be able to spot and fix any efficiency and safety issues your chimney may have.
- If you do not have dampers in the bottom of the firebox, open the nearest window slightly – approximately one inch – when the fireplace is in use. Close doors leading to the room to maximize heat production.
On another note, if you have a chimney and prefer not to use it, plug and seal the chimney flue to prevent heat loss. Some homeowners even purchase an additional item called a chimney balloon to prevent airflow. They run around $50, come in various sizes for different chimneys and can save you up to $100 in heat loss each year.
Fight the Drafts
Approximately 10 to 15 percent of your home’s energy bills seep through your doors and windows in the wintertime. Cut down on drafts by weatherstripping around doors and caulking windows.
You can also lessen drafts by adjusting your door thresholds. If you can see light under your exterior doors, you are losing indoor air. If your threshold has screws, adjust the threshold until you can no longer see light coming through the bottom of the door – but don’t raise it so high that it interferes with opening and closing the door.
Homeowners also lose warm air through electrical outlets and places where cables, pipes and gas lines enter the home. For large gaps, seal with expanding foam. Buy and place foam gaskets over outlet switches.
Check Your Insulation
According to the Department of Energy, you can reduce your heating and cooling needs by 30 percent simply by adding a few hundred dollars worth of new insulation, granted your home is in need to begin with. Homes more than 25 years old typically have an issue with proper insulation as building codes were not as mindful of energy efficiency.
Homeowners tend to focus on attic insulation, which should be at least 11 inches deep for fiberglass or rock wool insulation, but don’t ignore your levels in crawl spaces, ceilings, basement walls, and recessed lighting.
Get a "Smart" Thermostat
One of the coolest home gadgets of 2015 was The Nest Thermostat. By upgrading your thermostat to a smart edition, you'll save an average of 10-12% on heating bills (and 15% on cooling bills) as The Nest learns the temperatures you like and self-programs for comfort and energy efficiency.
Cover Up Your Water Heater
If you have a relatively newer hot water heater, you can probably skip this step. Many older model water heaters have to work double-time as they lose heat in the winter. If yours is older, grab an insulation blanket to help keep the heat inside of the unit instead of your utility closet.
Wanting to make larger scale energy efficient home improvements? Download our free Rehab & Construction Guide for information on loan types that allow homeowners to wrap the costs of home improvements, rehab or renovation into their existing mortgage or home purchase.