Magazine article The Exceptional Parent

25+ Ways: To Save Money on Home Heating Costs

Magazine article The Exceptional Parent

25+ Ways: To Save Money on Home Heating Costs

Article excerpt

Although there's not much you can do about the price of fuel, there are ways to use less energy and lower your heating bills. And some of these changes may entitle you to federal tax credits that can add to your savings.

PAYING FOR FUEL

The most obvious way to save on home heating costs is to shop around for the best price on fuel. Here are a few tips:

* If possible, lock in a lower rate when buying heating oil. Some companies allow customers to lock in a low rate in exchange for paying for all of their fuel up-front.

* Consider buying heating fuel in the off-season. If you fill up your tank during the spring or summer, you may be able to get a much better price per gallon than in the fall and winter when everyone is buying oil.

* If you're concerned about your ability to pay heating bills, contact your gas and other utility companies. You may be able to get "level billing," which stretches your heating bills throughout the entire year rather than just the winter season.

IMPROVING THE OVERALL ENERGY EFFICIENCY OF YOUR HOME

Although it makes sense to look for good fuel prices, the very best way to save money on heating costs is to simply use less heat. Yes, you can start by turning down your thermostat (even just one degree when you're sleeping at night can make a difference), but there are many other easy, low-cost steps you can take to save energy and money.

* An energy audit will show you how much energy you use and pinpoint ways to improve energy efficiency. Find out if your utility provider can do a free or low-cost home energy audit. You can also do a self-audit. Visit the Department of Energy's Do-It-Yourself Home Energy Assessment.

* Service your heating system. Furnaces need regular service in order to run efficiently. An annual service call, which usually involves cleaning and changing the filters in your system, costs about $100 but will probably save you much more over the course of the year in lower fuel use.

* Install a programmable thermostat. You can save up to ten percent a year on heating and cooling expenses by turning your thermostat back for eight hours. A new, programmable thermostat will automatically lower the heat when you're at work and bring it back up to ensure a warm home when you return.

* Make sure your attic and ceilings are adequately insulated. Heat rises, and if it's no t stopped by insulation, it will escape through your roof. Hire a contractor to assess your insulation and replace or add to it if necessary.

* Install ceiling fans if you don't already have them, and use them throughout the winter. Running ceiling fans slowly and in reverse will keep warm air (which rises) circulating around a room rather than just collecting near the ceiling.

* Make sure that furniture isn't blocking floor vents or radiators. This simple step can help your heating system run more efficiently and make rooms feel much warmer.

* Heat only the rooms that you use. Close off rooms that you don't use, such as extra bedrooms.

* Buy energy efficient appliances whenever possible. Look for the Energy Star logo on new appliances.

* Consider replacing an old furnace or boiler. Newer models are much more energy efficient and will save you money in the long term.

* If you have a fireplace, make sure the damper is closed when it's not in use.

* Visit the Energy Saver website for more tips.

IMPROVING THE ENERGY EFFICIENCY OF

WINDOWS AND DOORS

Windows and doors can raise your heating costs if not properly maintained. …

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