Oil prices are up 37 percent, and propane and natural gas bills are going to be sky high. So no matter how you heat your home, you're going to want to find ways to keep costs down this winter. Home contributor Lou Manfredini, aka Mr. Fix-It, was invited on “Today” to offer tips to get you through those cold winter nights.
Service your heating system every year
It's the best money you'll spend. The cost for a typical service call to clean the unit and change filters in both the furnace and humidifier, on average, is between $85 to $100, depending on where you live.
Install a programmable thermostatThis is a must. There are many different brands on the market that range in price from $50 to $125. You can program it to lower the temperature while you're at work or sleeping and save up to 30 percent in a well insulated home. What's more, outdated thermostats are the weakest link in conserving energy. According to the government's Energy Information Administration, only about 11 percent of U.S. homes are equipped with modern programmable thermostats. Honeywell®, a leader in control technology, estimates that homeowners can receive one to three months of free heating and cooling by installing a programmable thermostat. What are you waiting for?
Add weather stripping around windows and doors
This is a project that any homeowner can do. This also has a real impact on drafts and conserving energy. Door thresholds, window caulking and plastic window film can go a long way in saving your money this winter. If you live in a drafty home, you could save up to 20 percent on heating costs with an investment of as little as $25. There is even a removable window caulking called Wind-Jammer that can be pulled away clean in the spring. If you're replacing your front door, consider a fiberglass unit. These not only look great but have a higher insulating performance than traditional wood or steel doors. For more information check out thermatru.com.
Install ceiling fans
Remember learning in physics class that heat rises? Well, running ceiling fans slowly and in reverse will keep that warm air circulating and keep you more comfortable. What’s the bonus? The time your furnace runs will reduce, which will cut your monthly energy bill.
Rearrange the furniture
Really. A couch or chair over a vent or in front of baseboard radiators decreases the efficiency of the units and causes your heating system to run longer.
Install a tankless water heater
This technology has been around for almost 70 years. Now units are less expensive and can save you hundreds of dollars each year. How? They create hot water on demand, so there's no stored water needing to be continuously heated. (Think about when you’re away or asleep.) What’s the cost? A small unit that will produce about 3.3 gallons of hot water continuously is around $500 to $700, while a standard 50-gallon tank heater costs around $300. But you'll recoup the cost increase in just three years, and then the savings keep coming. What's more, standard water heaters tend to decrease in efficiency as time goes on. A seven-year-old tank heater runs at about 60 percent efficiency, while a tankless heater of the same age runs at about 70 percent to 75 percent efficiency. The limitations? Multiple fixtures can't run at the same time, making it difficult to run your washing machine and take a shower simultaneously. But the savings are really worth it — trust me. For more information check out controlledenergy.com.
Use compact florescent lightbulbs, or CFLs
These bulbs give off the same amount of light but use a third of the energy and many will last up to 5 years. Electric companies across the country say that replacing the five most used lightbulbs in your home with CFLs can save you up to $60 a year on your electric bill.
Install thermo-pane windows in your homeYou'll increase your home's energy efficiency up to 70 percent. Multi-pane windows can have R-values of as high as 9.1. (The higher the R-value, the more resistant the glass is to losing heat.) A typical single-pane glass has an R-value of 1.
Insulate your ceilings and atticHeat rises, and if there isn't enough insulation in the space above, your money is going out the roof — literally. Most ceilings and attic spaces should have at least an R-30 rating, although a rating of R-40 to R-50 is recommended for some areas of the country.
Let the sun be your guideWhy not? It's free energy. During the day, open up those drapes and blinds and let that sun heat your home. At night, draw the curtains to keep the heat inside.
A small label can save you big money. Look for the “energy star” label on your appliances, easily found on washing machines, computers and stereo equipment. This label means the Department of Energy and the Environmental Protection Agency have deemed these products to be energy efficient.
Use these tips and products to help you keep more heat in your home and, ultimately, more money in the bank. For more help, visit my Web site: .