It's not enough that we now frequently blink back tears when pumping gas at our local filling station. Winter is on the way, and we'll soon be experiencing paroxysms of despair when we open our heating bills. In my neighborhood, for example, the local electric company just got approval for a 12.4% rate hike, when it wanted a 24% one. It plans to request another hike soon. Meanwhile, the gas company had requested a 13% rate hike in September but now wants to raise that to 24%. The cost of home heating oil is up 57% over year-ago levels (so far). Waaaahh!
I can't lower these prices, but there is one thing I can do -- share some tips on how you can reduce the cost of heating your home this winter. Here are a bunch of ideas, some taken from our discussion boards:
- Take a trip to Home Depot
(NYSE:HD)or Lowe's (NYSE:LOW). Buy a few $3 tubes of caulking and seal those windows and any other drafts you can find. Invest in a little weatherstripping for your doors, if your old weatherstripping is wearing out. See if you can add any insulation anywhere in your home -- perhaps between your attached garage and house, or in your attic, or even your basement. Pipes can be easily insulated, too. Try covering your windows with plastic sheeting. (Leave a few uncovered, though, to permit occasional airing out of the house.)
- Ceiling fans can be effective at circulating warm air that normally collects by your ceiling, where you can't enjoy it.
- Consider sealing off some rooms you rarely use, and don't heat them. (Make sure they don't contain any pipes that might freeze, though. And reconsider if they're damp rooms, as mildew might form.)
- Get your heating system tuned up. Annual checkups, including filter replacements, can prevent unexpected headaches and expenses. Get a programmable thermostat, too, which will let you automatically cool down your home when you're away or asleep -- it might help to save up to 30% of your home heating costs. A chimney cleaning can make your home safer and more energy-efficient, too. (Make sure that damper is closed when not in use.)
- If your home has several heating zones, lower the temperature in zones you least often occupy. If you don't have that much control, consider getting an energy-efficient space heater to warm up areas where you spend a lot of time, such as in front of the television or at your desk. (Just be very careful with space heaters -- they pose a fire risk if used improperly, and gas heaters can create a deadly carbon monoxide buildup in unventilated rooms.)
- Learn to appreciate piles of blankets on your bed. They can permit your home to stay fairly cool overnight while you're snug under the covers. This is when another warm body can come in handy, too (such as a dear spouse, or Fido).
- Rearrange furniture. Do you have a bookcase blocking a heating unit? If so, you're losing heat and money. Is there a big padded chair over a heating vent? Same thing.
- Cook more. Using your oven or stove top can warm up a home a bit. The money you save by not going out to eat can pay for some energy. Look into getting a humidifier or two for your home. Moist air feels warmer.
- Try flannel sheets on your bed. Buy long underwear. Keep a toasty comforter on the sofa to snuggle under when watching television.
- Have lots of visitors. They'll bring valuable body heat with them. Perhaps play some board games with them. Or better yet, play Twister -- it should warm up your bodies even more.
- Look into upgrading your windows. Many old windows are drafty and poor insulators. At MSN.com, Lou Manfredi noted that thermopane windows can "increase your home's energy efficiency up to 70%. 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."
You can read a lot more ideas on our Living Below Your Means discussion board.
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