2005-10-28 / Community

Tips To Slash Home Heating Bills

Hurricanes Katrina and Rita will hit homeowners’ wallets this winter. The storms have caused real damage and disruption to the natural gas industry, adding strains to rising demand. Natural gas prices are at a record high, and the Department of Energy has stated that they will continue going up as cold weather descends upon us.

The price increases will translate into a $500 to $800 jump in annual home heating and water heating bills for most homeowners. While the price of fuel can’t be controlled, you can reduce how much is used. The Comfort Institute has issued these seven tips to make your home energy efficient.

1) Have your duct system tested for air leaks. Many assume windows and doors are the major cause of wasted heat. But according to research by the Department of Energy (DOE), gaps, joints and disconnections in the home’s duct system are much more significant, losing up to 40% of energy from furnaces or heat pumps. They recommend having a heat contractor test for leaks, and fix any with a sealant.

2) Ask a contractor to perform an Infiltrometer “blower door” test. The “blower door” is a computerized instrument that pinpoints where your home’s worst leaks are. Many heating contractors offer the test as part of a “house checkup” that scans to find hidden leaks.

3) Close your fireplace damper. For those that have fireplaces in the home, shutting the damper down will keep warm air from escaping.

4) Replace your furnace or heat pump air filter. Most systems need this done every month to ensure a safe and efficient operation. Ask your contractor for information on a whole house air filer that only needs to be replaced once a year. It does a better job of keeping equipment and the air in the home clean.

5) Have the heating system cleaned and tuned. A pre-season tune up is a good investment, reducing the chances of breakdowns in the winter air. Also, a carbon monoxide safety check should be performed by your contractor to ensure everything is working properly.

6) Install a programmable set-back thermostat. Turning down your thermostat eight degrees for eight hours a day saves eight percent on home heating costs. A programmable thermostat that turns the heat down at night and turns it back up in the morning saves money and your comfort.

7) Consider replacing an old furnace or heat pump. If your system is more than 12 years old, it may be a good idea to replace your system before it fails permanently. New systems improve comfort, create less air pollution, and save money.

For more information on natural gas and heating, visit www.energystar.gov and www.comfortinstitute .org.

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