Did you know that the average household in the United States spends nearly $1000 on heating each winter – and the bill is a lot higher in certain areas of the country. Aside from the cost, the environmental impact of burning all that fuel oil is significant, leading to high emissions of greenhouse gases. However, if you are an environmentally aware homeowner, there are a number of things you can do to drastically reduce the amount of fuel that you need from a residential heating oil supplier
Let’s start with the things that will reduce your heating costs without you having to spend a cent. It may seem obvious, but if you turn down your thermostats, you are going to save a surprisingly large amount of money – and you don’t need to leave yourself shivering to do this. In most cases, turning down the thermostat just one degree will reduce your heating bill by about 3%. So, if you keep the thermostat set at 70 rather than 72, you will immediately take 6% off of your heating costs. Furthermore, if you also set your thermostats to go down to 65 when you are out of the house during the day and when you are sleeping at night, then the total savings can be closer to 12%.
Another thing that can save a significant amount of energy is turning off fans when they are not in use. It may seem unbelievable, but if you leave a bathroom or kitchen fan on for just one hour, it can expel a complete houseful of warm air. If you have fireplaces, keep the dampers closed as well, as these can suck air and heat right out of the room. Finally, consider turning down your water heater to around 120 degrees – this will reduce your energy consumption considerably, and you are unlikely to notice the difference.
Now, let’s look at things that cost very little but have a big effect on heating costs.
You may not think that your house has any leaks, but you would be wrong. If you take into account all of the little gaps around doors, windows and other exposed areas, these can add up to the equivalent of a 9 square foot hole in your walls. These leaks are easy to find – on a windy day, simply hold a lit candle up to any areas that you suspect might be leaking and see if the flame flickers. Once you have identified the leaks, you can eliminate them by caulking around windows and installing door sweeps on outside doors.
The other key area where energy is lost is in your ductwork. In fact, if your ducts travel through unheated spaces and are not insulated properly or leak, you can lose up to 60% of the heat they carry before it ever makes it to its destination. To fix this, simply tape all the joints with a metal-backed tape and wrap the ducts with special duct insulation. Other low-cost ways of reducing energy consumption include replacing any clogged air filters on your furnace, making sure there is enough insulation in your attic, and winterizing your windows – you can do this by putting plastic film on them.
Finally, there are the big ticket items.
Putting in new, energy-efficient windows can be expensive, but it pays off in the long term. You should look for units that are double or triple-glazed, and filled with an inert gas. It’s often a good idea to wait until you need to replace your windows anyway before you do this, since the incremental cost is likely to be no more than $100 per window.
If you have an old furnace – over 20 years old – then it is time to replace it. When you come to do this, consider buying a new furnace that carries the ENERGY STAR label. These furnaces, which are rated by the federal agency of the same name, are up to 15% more efficient than a new conventional furnace. You will pay a premium for this, but your payback period is likely to be less than four years.
While many of these investments pay for themselves, there may also be state and federal tax credits that you can apply for to help offset the cost. While these are not typically large, they can make a difference. One good place to look for any available federal and state incentives is the Database of State Incentives for Renewables and Efficiency (DSIRE), which is funded by the US Department of Energy.