Managing Higher Heating Costs

Heating costs are projected to increase this winter, according to forecasts by the Energy Information Administration (EIA). In fact, the EIA predicts the average household expenditures for all space-heating fuels will be $1,137 this winter (October 1 to March 31), a 15-percent increase over the estimated $986 spent last winter. The projected increases primarily reflect higher prices, although a colder-than-normal winter will also contribute to higher fuel use in many areas.

The increases in energy costs are affected by numerous factors including the quality of insulation, the size of the home, and the availability of direct sunlight. My leaky doors and windows also suggest that the age of the home plays a factor. The good news is that there are ways to bring your energy costs into a more manageable range. Following are some energy-saving tips that are good for the environment and your pocketbook.

-Lower the thermostat. The most important thing you can do is to set the thermostat as low as comfortable. Every degree you lower the thermostat reduces your heating costs by 3 percent or more. A programmable thermostat can help by adjusting the temperature according to a set schedule. It might help to wear warm clothing, even indoors (I am currently wearing a parka).

-Perform simple maintenance. Replace the filters in your heating units regularly. Clogged filters break down the efficiency of the heating unit, which means it takes more energy to keep your home warm.

-Stop the leaks. Run your hand around the outer edges of doors and windows. If you feel a draft, there’s a good chance that you’re wasting money through that seal because the window or door is not air tight. Although I haven’t done it yet, I understand that it only costs a few dollars and a trip to the hardware store to seal the leaks. Installing storm windows can also cut your heat loss in half.

-Take a whole-house approach. Don’t forget to practice good overall energy conservation. For example, turn the lights off when you leave a room and close the fireplace damper when not in use. Keep traffic in and out of the house to a minimum. The more you open the doors, the more heat escapes into the cold air outside.

-Call in the experts. Many utility companies will send an energy expert to your home for a free energy check. They look for the little nooks and crannies where your energy dollars may be escaping.

This holiday season, you might also consider donating to an organization that helps low-income to afford their home energy expenses. To locate a local organization, visit LiveUnited.org.

Kim McGrigg is the former Manager of Community and Media Relations for MMI.

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