MN Energy Smart

How to Lower Your Heating Bills

It’s been an unusually cold winter in many parts of the U.S., and that means heating bills may be burning a hole in your bank account. How can you minimize the costs, but still stay warm?

One possible solution is installing an Energy Star-qualified furnace or water heater, which may cut those heating costs by nearly 30%. (An added bonus: Utilities and state overnments are now offering rebates to home owners and businesses replacing older models with highly efficient ones. Find out about rebates in your area here.)

But even if that’s not an option, here are some lower-cost strategies for keeping winter heating bills in check:

1. Use a programmable thermostat. This lets you preset the temperature in your home or business over the course of the day, so you can lower the temperature at times when it’s less important to keep it warm – such as while you’re sleeping or nobody’s around. For every one degree you lower the temp, you can save 2% of your heating costs.

2. Use less hot water. Heating water for tasks such as washing, food preparation and production, accounts for a big chunk of heating bills. One strategy: Set the controls on your hot water heater at 120 degrees or lower. You can also cut down on hot water use by up to 50% by installing faucet aerators and low-flow showerheads. Use cold or warm water for tasks that don’t require hot, such as washing many types of clothes.

3. Seal drafts. Many people overuse the furnace – or needlessly shiver – because their building or home is drafty. Cold air can seep in through door and window frames, roofs, and fireplaces, and other cavities. It’s sometimes obvious where cold air is leaking in because you feel it; other times not so much. Once you identify the draft culprits, seal them up (and make sure your fireplace damper is shut when not in use.) Here’s some advice on how to do that.

4. Use ceiling fans. Fans aren’t just for summer. Using ceiling fans in the winter can help push down and circulate warm air near the ceiling and distribute it around the room, so the space requires less heat.

5. Maintain your furnace. Getting periodic checks of your furnace and replacing or cleaning the filter every few months months will ensure you’re getting optimum performance.

6. Insulate properly. Making sure you have proper insulation in areas such as attics, crawl spaces, and basements where hot air often escapes can help. An energy auditor will identify areas where insulating makes sense, but this primer on insulation from Oak Ridge National Laboratory can also help.

Have you found other ways to reduce your home or business’s heating costs?

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