7 Ways to Lower Your Energy Bills

Are the bills piling up?

Are the bills piling up?

by Ethan Ewing, www.bills.com

If you’re like many Americans, you’re probably looking for ways to trim costs while the economy is in a down turn.  According to the U.S. Department of Energy, the average American home will spend $990 on heating this year.  Create a little breathing room in your budget with these 7 tips for lowering your winter energy bills.

  1. Protect your system. Change furnace filters regularly to keep your air clean and to ensure maximum air flow. If your home, apartment or condo unit has an individual furnace or boiler, have it inspected by a professional. A furnace that works properly will be more efficient and less likely to fail. For maximum savings, ask the service person for tips on ways you can maintain your system yourself.
  2. Turn down the heat.

    If your health permits, lower the thermostat to 68 degrees (or even lower). For every one degree the thermostat is lowered, heating costs decrease by up to 5 percent. At night, or when the home is empty, lower the temperature as far as possible while protecting your health and the safety of pipes. If necessary, stay cozy with an electric blanket.

  3. Program the temperature. Make furnace settings automatic by installing a programmable thermostat. These devices cost about $40 and are simple to install.
  4. Save hot water energy. Turn the temperature on the hot water heater to 120 degrees – or, if yours is equipped only with a scale, turn it down a notch. Most people can save up to 10 percent of water heating costs, maintaining plenty of hot water (and the water will be less likely to cause accidental scalding). If the hot water heater is situated in a cool area, consider adding an insulating jacket to help maintain water temperatures and reduce heating time. Insulate the first few feet of pipe that transport hot water from the water heater. If you need to replace a water heater, consider a tankless or “on-demand” unit. The U.S. Department of Energy estimates these appliances are 8 percent to 34 percent more efficient than conventional hot water tanks.
  5. Insulate. Carefully inspect your home for drafty spots where cold air can enter. The most common culprits are doors and windows. Install weather stripping and door sweeps to block drafts. Add old-fashioned “draft dodgers” for a quick fix at exterior doors. Other common areas for air leaks are locks, outlets, air conditioning units and recessed light fixtures.  Cover outside vents, including air conditioning units. If possible, install insulated electrical outlet boxes and light fixtures. Check out The Energy Star program’s free guide to home insulation.
  6. Shop around. Those who purchase fuel oil have a choice of energy providers. Do compare prices to obtain the lowest rates.
  7. Take a tax credit. In 2009, homeowners who add certain efficiency measures to their homes can take a tax credit of up to 10 percent of the cost of the materials used, up to $500 per home. Learn more about tax credits here.

Photo by woodsy

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