Our energy lives have taken a turn for the worse. Gone are the days of filling up our gas tanks for, say, $1.12 per gallon. (It was only in March of 2002 that regular gas averaged $1.12 per gallon. Fewer than five years later, it costs more than twice as much. Ouch.)
It's bad enough that we now frequently blink back tears when pumping gas at our local filling station. Making matters worse for many is the fact that winter is here, and we'll soon be experiencing paroxysms of despair when we open our heating bills.
In this season of despair, here's a little holiday gift from me to you: 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. Buy a few $2 tubes of caulking and seal those windows and any other drafts you can find. Invest in a little weather stripping for your doors, if your old weather stripping 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 aren't just for summer -- they 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 check-ups, including replaced filters, can prevent unexpected headaches and expenses. Get a programmable thermostat, too, which will let you automatically have your home cooled down when you're away or asleep. Some estimate that up to 30% of home heating costs can be saved this way. To get an idea of the cost, know that Honeywell
(NYSE:HON)makes programmable thermostats that typically cost between $40 and $200.
- A chimney cleaning can make your home safer and more energy-efficient, too. (And make sure that damper is closed when not in use.)
- If your home has several heating zones, set the zones where you spend little time to be cooler. 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 can be dangerous.)
- 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 a spouse can come in handy, too! Try flannel sheets on your bed. Buy long underwear. Keep a toasty comforter on the sofa to snuggle under when watching television. You can get a set of flannel sheets at Bed, Bath & Beyond
(NASDAQ:BBBY)for less than $70.
- 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. And 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, as well -- moist air feels warmer.
- Have lots of visitors. They'll bring with them some valuable body heat. Perhaps play some board games with them; check out Hasbro's
- Look into upgrading your windows. Many old windows are drafty and poor insulators. At MSN.com, Lou Manfredi noted that thermo-pane 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."
Our Living Below Your Means discussion board has a lot more ideas that you can check out. To learn more about maintaining (and buying and selling) a home, take a look at our Home Center. Also, visit our Building/Maintaining a Home discussion board to get some great insights and tips from fellow Fools.
Home Depot and Bed, Bath & Beyond are Inside Value recommendations. Bed, Bath & Beyond is also a Stock Advisor pick, as is Hasbro.
Longtime Fool contributorSelena Maranjianowns shares of Home Depot. The Motley Fool has a fulldisclosure policy.