It seems like the cold weather has settled in to stay in many parts of the Country. Thanks to a one-two punch of colder weather and slightly higher fuel prices, U.S. households likely will pay more to heat their homes this winter. For those who want to save on heating costs, what are the options?
In October, the U.S. Energy Information Administration’s Winter Fuels Outlook forecasted that heating prices this year would be higher than the last two winters. The report is based on a look at temperature forecasts along with expected costs for the various fuels that Americans use to heat their homes -- natural gas, electricity, heating oil and propane.
The report estimates that average cost increases will vary by fuel and could rise by 8 percent for electricity; 12 percent for natural gas; 17 percent for home heating oil; and 18 percent for propane.
You don’t have to leave yourself completely at the whim of Mother Nature and your fuel company when it comes to heating costs. Making updates to your home can save on heating costs by an average of 15 percent, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
A home energy assessment can reveal air leaks and other problems that need sealing or fixing to prevent the cold air from flowing into your home. Professionals can do the job for you -- often for a fee. But homeowners and renters can conduct their own assessments as well.
Before the cold air strikes, here are a couple of simple do-it-yourself tests and fixes to seal up your home -- and save on heating costs this winter.
These often are to blame for cold, drafty homes. The U.S. Department of Energy recommends looking for cracks and gaps in places that include electrical outlets, door and window frames, electrical and gas service entrances, baseboards, weather stripping around doors, fireplace dampers and attic hatches.
Once you find the leaks, the energy department recommends making any fixes that you can. For instance, you can caulk and weatherstrip doors and windows that leak air, cover your kitchen exhaust fan when it’s not in use, replace door bottoms and thresholds and keep the fireplace flue damper tightly closed when it’s not in use.
Just how well insulated your home is likely will depend on when it was built. Newer homes and apartments often are better insulated than older ones that haven’t gone through a recent renovation. The energy department offers tips for ways to find out how well your home is insulated, including which insulation is best.
If it turns out that your home could use more insulation, you could hire a professional to do the job for you, knowing that the savings will rack up once you start benefitting from a home that keeps the warm air inside. But, if that’s not in the financial cards for you, This Old House offers some great tips for doing the job yourself.
Sealing and insulating your home before the cold weather arrives can lower your winter heating costs in the long-run. But these do-it-yourself jobs can cost you some time and money. Before you launch into any home renovation project, make sure you know exactly how much the fixes will cost, how much you have to spend and how long the work will take.
Few home projects like these come without surprises. But, the more you plan ahead at the start, the better you’ll be able to get to the finish line.
If you are experiencing financial difficulty and are looking for a solution, non-profit credit counseling can help you make sense of all your options. Contact us today for a free financial assessment with one of our certified credit counselors.
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