Heating your home throughout the winter is certainly a necessity, but in many cases it comes at no small expense. Whether you have a boiler, a gas furnace, or another means of heating your home, the energy required to keep your interior at a comfortable or at least livable temperature can leave you with astronomical utility bills. However, there could be any number of identifiable reasons why you’re paying more than you should. And there are plenty of easy ways to address the energy efficiency issues in your home and lower your costs in the process. Here are a few ways to prevent the high home energy bills that have plagued you in winters past.
- Hire a home energy auditor. You can’t hope to combat high energy bills if you don’t have the faintest clue what is causing them. A professional home energy auditor can help. This technician will come to your home, perform an inspection, run tests, and deliver a report complete with problem areas and recommendations for addressing them. Although home energy auditors are not trained to fix the issues they find, the report you receive will provide you with all the information you need to start making your home more energy efficient and reducing your energy bills in the process.
- Apply weather stripping. When wood is exposed to heat and humidity, it tends to swell. And when temperatures and humidity drop, wood tends to shrink. So when winter weather rolls in, your doors, window, and frames may suddenly feature gaps that weren’t there during the summer months. Luckily, there’s an easy fix. You should have no trouble finding weather stripping products at your local hardware store, and prices vary from inexpensive, temporary options to slightly more costly products that are also more permanent. And most are easy for the average homeowner to install.
- Increase insulation. Tearing out the walls to upgrade to spray foam insulation is neither cheap nor easy, but you can easily increase insulation in other key areas. For example, if the exposed insulation in your attic is inadequate or it has started to deteriorate, you could be losing heat through the top of your home. Luckily, it’s not too difficult to add or upgrade batting or fill. And you should definitely swap out your summer screens for storm windows to provide an extra layer of insulation at a point where cold air can easily seep in.
- Program your thermostat. If you don’t yet have a programmable thermostat, upgrading isn’t very expensive, especially when you consider how much you stand to save over time. By programming your thermostat to remain at no higher than 68?F when you’re at home and then revert to a lower temperature (say 10-15 degrees lower) while you’re away at work, you stand to shave as much as 15% off your energy bill, according to the Department of Energy (based on an 8-hour rollback). Even without the benefit of a modern furnace or new construction HVAC services, you can still reduce your energy bill when you program your thermostat.
- Look at your lighting. In addition to heating your home, you’re likely to need additional lighting during the winter due to fewer daylight hours. The easiest way to cut costs here is to switch to energy-efficient light bulbs. Compact fluorescent lights (CFLs) are only slightly more expensive than standard incandescent bulbs, they fit in standard fixtures, and they use about a third of the energy for the same illumination, as well as lasting approximately ten times as long. In short, they’ll save you a lot in the long run. LEDs are even more efficient, although they often require special fixtures.