Ninety percent of American homeowners will pay more for heating this year due to higher fuel and electricity costs, the U.S. Energy Information Administration reports. The agency estimates that the average household heating with natural gas will spend $679 total between October and March, representing a 13 percent price increase over last year. Meanwhile, for the same time period, propane-heated homes will climb nine percent to $1,666, and homes with electric heat will rise two percent to $909. Only those who heat using oil will see a decrease, with prices down two percent to $2,046. Fortunately, there are things homeowners can do to keep their utility costs down during winter.
Winterize Your Windows and Other Energy Wasters
Energy lost through windows accounts for 10 to 25 percent of a home’s total heating bills, according to the U.S. Department of Energy. Cover and seal drafty windows to cut costs—place heavy plastic sheeting on the frames or clear film inside the framing, and seal leaks with caulk. For stubborn cold spots, add drapes or shades for an extra layer of protection.
While you’re covering your windows, look for ways to apply the same principle to other parts of your home. For instance, if you have a fireplace, make sure you’re closing the damper when no fire is burning. If you have a hot tub or spa, always use a cover when it’s not in use to reduce evaporation and conserve heat.
Adjust Your Thermostat
The Brooklyn-based company EnergyHub, which develops systems that reduce home energy costs, researched how much Michigan heating costs changed for each degree the thermostat was lowered in winter. They found out that lowering the thermostat one degree saved $10 a month—so if you lower your thermostat by three degrees, you’ll save $30 a month. That’s a good chunk of change.
Consider using a programmable thermostat to lower the temperature when you’re sleeping or away from home. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recommends setting the temperature at 70 degrees during waking hours and 62 for non-peak times of the day.
Watch Your Water Heater
Water heating consumes 15 percent of a home’s total energy use, according to the EPA. One of the easiest ways to reduce this cost is to turn your water heater’s temperature down to 120 degrees.
Trim the Lights
Holiday lighting adds $30 to $50 to your electricity bill each year, MSN Money reports. To trim these expenses, substitute LED lights for incandescent bulbs. For instance, where keeping an incandescent C-9 Christmas tree lights on 12 hours a day for 40 days might cost you $10, using LED lights instead will cost you just 27 cents. Similarly, incandescent mini-lights might cost $2.74 where the LED equivalent runs 82 cents. Visit the Christmas lights electricity cost calculator to figure out how much you’re spending and to see how much using LED lights would save you. Other tactics you can try include using solar-powered Christmas lights and setting timers to shut them off in the wee hours of the night.
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