Furnaces are kicking in across the U.S. as temperatures sink. Alas, keeping warm comes with a higher sticker price each year, no matter what type of heating system you use. According to CNN Money, the average bill for a home using heating oil is more than $320 per month while gas users fork over $160 monthly.
Here are some thoughts on how you could lower your heating bill without freezing your way through the winter.
1. Energy Audit
The first step is to assess any problem areas. Ask if your utility company provides a free or low-cost energy audit, which will identify changes you should make. If you such audits aren't available, there are still ways to ascertain problems for yourself and small projects you can accomplish without professional help.
2. Seek Incentives
Some states offer improvement incentives, including providing and installing a free programmable thermostat; paying a portion of insulation upgrades; or providing rebates on the cost of materials. Look for such offers at the Database of State Incentives for Renewables & Efficiency. If you can't find an applicable program, you can reduce the cost of supplies by finding coupons for major home improvement centers, hardware stores, big-box stores and more at such sites as CouponSherpa.
3. Change Furnace Filters
Many of us think of changing our furnace filters just once or twice a year, yet experts say we should replace them every month during the heating season. Better yet, switch to a permanent filter you can clean regularly.
4. Dodge the Draft
According to the U.S. Department of Energy, you can waste 5 to 30 percent of your energy use to heat the great outdoors through drafts. The simplest remedy is to place draft dodgers or snakes at leaking doors. You can use an old towel or make your own easily out of a leg of pantyhose stuffed with rice or sawdust and tied at both ends. To find air leaks, place a light candle in front of possible drafts, have someone blow through the crack from the other side, and watch to see if the flame wavers.
5. Weather Strip Thresholds
Draft snakes are fine for cracks at the bottom of doors, but we often lose heat at the sides and top of doors and windows. Check out this Dummies.com video explaining how to install weather strips.
6. Install a Programmable Thermostat
A programmable thermostat allows you to keep the house cooler when it's empty and automatically turn up the heat before you arrive at home or get up in the morning. The Nest Learning Thermostat represents the latest and greatest in programmable thermostat technology, but you don't need to shell out $249 to benefit from one of these gadgets. You can pick one up for as little as $20 and save an average of 10% a year on your heating and cooling bill.
7. Upgrade Your Attic Insulation
Roofs are energy vampires. They'll suck rising heat right out of your home, if not properly insulated. Types of insulation include the standard fiberglass (in both batt and blown forms), rigid foam board, spray foam and cellulose. Unless you're handy around the house, this is a project best left to professionals, but it's the best investment you can make to reduce future energy bills.
Andrea Woroch is a consumer and money-saving expert for Kinoli Inc., and has been featured among such top news outlets as Good Morning America, NBC's Today, MSNBC, New York Times, Kiplinger Personal Finance, CNNMoney and many more. She is available for in-studio, satellite or skype interviews and to write guest posts or articles.