Best Ways to Reduce Winter Heating Bills

Don't just pay those high winter utility bills. Fight back with some smart action.

Tune-up or Upgrade Your Furnace

The simplest thing most homeowners can do to improve the efficiency of their existing heating system is regularly cleaning and replacing the air filters. Routine maintenance and inspection by a qualified heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) repairman is also important.

If your heating system is old, however, you should consider replacing it. Why? A pre-1977 gas furnace is approximately 50 percent to 60 percent as efficient as today's furnaces. Recently manufactured gas furnaces have efficiency ratings as high as 97 percent. Replace an old heating system with one of the most efficient models could cut your natural gas use by almost half!

If you use electricity to heat your home, heat pumps are most efficient - enabling a savings between 30 percent and 40 percent on electricity used for heating.

Insulation is Most Cost-Effective

Adding extra insulation to an attic is likely to be the most budget-conscious way to cut your home heating costs. Because so many older houses were built with little or no insulation, large amounts of heat are frequently lost through the floor, walls, and particularly the ceiling. The so-called "R" value of insulation designates its resistance to heat flow. The higher the R-value, the greater the insulating quality of the product.

There are many typical places to look for drafts and leaks that can be inexpensively insulated. Every duct, wire or pipe that penetrates the wall or ceiling or floor has the potential to waste energy. Seal them with caulking or weather-stripping. Plumbing vents should be inspected closely, because they travel through the whole house - beginning below the floor and going literally through the roof. By sealing them carefully, you can prevent cold air from entering the house from the outside. Electric wall plugs and switches often allow cold air into the house. Purchase pre-cut foam gaskets at your local hardware store. They fit easily behind the switch plate, and immediately prevent air leaks.

The Wonderful World of New Windows

Out-dated windows can be responsible for up to 50 percent of the heat loss that takes place in winter, even if your home's walls and doors have been well-insulated!

Tightly-fitted windows lose 5 times less heat than loosely fitted ones. Homeowners can minimize home heat loss by checking for drafts around windows and doors and sealing them with weather-stripping. Simply sealing air leaks will do a lot to improve a home's energy efficiency.

Double-glazed windows, which sandwich two panes of glass, are more efficient than single-pane windows, because they help prevent the loss of heat. Windows with a "low e" coating [which, like the "R" rating of insulation, reduces the transfer of heat] provides even better insulation.

Replacing windows, although not inexpensive, is an effective way to save on energy costs, and can also provide other benefits, such as improved appearance, market value and year-round comfort.

Up in Smoke?

A last no-brainer energy tip for winter? Close the chimney damper of the fireplace when you're not using it. Whenever the damper open and a fire isn't burning, your chimney is the same as an open window, drawing warm air out of the room and increasing drafts. font-family:Arial;mso-bidi-font-family:"Times New Roman"'>

Sources for this article include the California Energy Commission



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