Here's How You Can Save Money On Heating This Winter

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Since winters in the greater Louisville, Kentucky area can be exceptionally cold, homeowners rely heavily on their furnaces and heating equipment. Unfortunately, utility costs have increased across the country, and now, home heating accounts for an estimated 40% of the average household’s yearly energy costs. To free up their budget, many folks are looking for ways to save on heating bills.

While major changes, such as upgrading to a high efficiency heating unit or a cheaper fuel source can save you thousands, many people simply don’t have the liquidity in their budget to switch anytime soon. Fortunately, there are plenty of things you can do to lower your average heating bill, without having thousands of dollars on hand to put back into your home.

Learning how to save on heating doesn’t have to be time-intensive or pricy. Many cost-saving measures are fast, effective, and can lower your average monthly heating bill soon. Before you know it, your home could become even more comfortable and efficient. Here at Jarboe’s Plumbing, Heating & Cooling, we are committed to making things easier for homeowners. Read on to learn how to control your heating expenses and lower your average monthly heating costs without breaking the bank.

The Average Cost of Home Heating

In the United States, nearly half of Americans use natural gas for home heating, while 24% use electric heat, 6% use heating oil, and 5% use liquid propane. Depending on what fuel source your home or area uses, your heating costs can vary significantly. Many factors play into the size of your monthly heating bill, including city ordinances, household square footage, insulation levels, home heating equipment efficiency, and variety of fuel used to power your furnace.

While Kentucky has the 17th highest utility costs in the country, heating expenses are on the low end, especially compared with states with more severe winters.

  • The average monthly electric bill for a Kentucky home is $114.15
  • The average monthly natural gas bill for a Kentucky home is $75.11

However, the amount you pay will depend on the type of heating used, and the layout and features of your home. Check out how much heating costs can vary between fuel types like electric, oil, natural gas, or propane:

  • 97% AFUE gas furnace: $453
  • 80% AFUE gas furnace: $601
  • 97% AFUE propane furnace: $737
  • 87% AFUE oil furnace: $826
  • 80% AFUE oil furnace: $896
  • 80% AFUE propane furnace: $956
  • 7 HSPF electric heat pump: $1,046
  • Electrical resistance heating: $1,818

Start Saving on Home Heating Today

While it may seem difficult to do, you can make your home to become more energy efficient by making some small changes at home. Doing what you can to conserve energy by using fuel-consuming appliances wisely can help you to keep more of your heated air inside, which is good for the environment, your heating equipment, and your comfort level. Here are a few tips to lower your heating energy consumption, so you can enjoy lower bills.

Simple Ways to Save On Heating

  • Program your thermostat. Programmable thermostats are designed to save people money on power. By setting back your thermostat 7°-10°F for 8 hours a day, you can save up to 10% on your heating bill. Whenever the seasons change, adjust your thermostat appropriately. Set your system temperature back during times when your family will be away during the day. When selecting at-home temperatures, try to choose energy efficient temperature setpoints. For instance, 68°F is recommended for times when occupants are home, and 58°F to 53°F is recommended when people are away.
  • Upgrade your thermostat altogether. If you are currently using an older, manual thermostat, upgrade your system to give you more control over home heating. Modern smart thermostats are easy to use, and can be controlled easily from your phone, even if you aren’t home. Some smart thermostats even use the GPS on your phone to detect when you are away, so the system won’t heat or cool a home without anyone inside. Smart thermostats may also have a “learning” feature, which uses information about input to determine when you typically want your home heated. Even simple, low-cost programmable thermostats can save you money, since you can design the heating schedule around your daily routine.
  • Switch out your HVAC filter. HVAC filters are designed to trap particulates, odors, and allergens from your indoor air. However, when filters become dirty, they can lower efficiency, since the grime can hamper airflow. Replace filters as often as recommended by the manufacturer. Typically, filters should be replaced at least once every 90 days, but may need more frequent replacement during high-use periods, such as winter.
  • Seal gaps in ductwork. Duct runs are the channels that move heated air throughout the rooms of your home. However, installation mistakes, pressure problems, or physical damage can cause duct leaks, which account for as much as 20 to 30 percent heating and cooling energy loss in the average home. Leaks within duct lines can also allow unheated air to pull into your lines, lowering the temperature of your space. If you have accessible duct runs in your attic or basement, look for leaks in the lines, and seal them with foil tape or mastic. If you see obvious signs of problems, such as gaps, holes, disconnections, tears, or crushed segments, reach out to a professional for duct sealing services. Experts can also test your lines to ensure that air isn’t leaking, which can save you a lot of money on your monthly power bill.
  • Insulate duct runs. Ductwork commonly runs through unheated and unconditioned spaces like attics, basements, and crawlspaces. Since the temperature around the pipes can be so much colder than the air within the pipes, the metal can cool, changing the temperature of the heated air. Adding insulation around duct runs can help more heat to remain in the air, so your home heats up more efficiently.
  • Open or uncover vents and registers. Your entire HVAC system was installed to create balance between the air pressures in the rooms of your home. If vents or air return registers are closed or blocked, your indoor air will not heat evenly. Make sure all vents are open in your home, and that supply ducts are clear of obstructions like furniture, decorations, or area rugs.
  • Use a whole-home humidifier. Adding humidity to a room raises the relative humidity, which makes the space feel warmer than it really is. Ward off excess energy use by using a whole-home humidifier. When the humidifier is running, you will feel warmer without using as much heat. As an added bonus, these units are relatively affordable, and much less expensive than updating your entire home heating system.
  • Watch exhaust fan use. Bathrooms and kitchens are great places to install exhaust fans, since these areas are prone to humidity and odors. However, during the winter, running these fans too often can expel heated air, which can hamper efficiency. During the winter, turn off exhaust fans immediately after you finish showering, cooking, or performing other activities that require the use of the appliance. Try not to run fans more than 20 minutes at a time. Consider taking shorter showers or keeping the door cracked to reduce humidity in a way that won’t hamper heating efficiency.
  • Maintain heating equipment. Furnaces, heat pumps, and boilers should receive professional tune ups to check for problems and restore efficiency. Furnaces and heat pumps should be cleaned and tuned-up by a professional once a year, at the start of each heating season, while heat pumps should be serviced twice a year, since they heat and cool your home.
  • Clean baseboard heaters and radiators. If you rely on radiant heating from a radiator or baseboard heater, layers of dust can act as an insulator, reducing efficiency. Keep radiators, baseboard heaters, and other forms of radiant heating as clean as possible.
  • Clean exterior heat pump unit. The exterior portion of your heat pump needs to be clean to efficiently exchange heat. Check your outdoor unit regularly and clean away grime, such as leaves, dirt, and weeds growing in the area. Avoid storing outdoor items, such as patio furniture, grills, or children’s toys around the pump. You should maintain at least two feet of clearance between the pump and anything else.

Home Projects that Save Energy

  • Seal your windows and use curtains. Prevent air leaks caused by old, inefficient, or damaged windows by sealing the interior side of the window with plastic. Sealing windows is easy to do with a kit from your local home improvement store and prevents drafts and condensation. Close curtains at night and on colder days to keep as much heat indoors as possible.
  • Increase insulation. Many homes in Kentucky have inadequate insulation levels, allowing heat to leak through the walls and attic of your home. In Kentucky, the recommended R-Value for insulation levels falls between R38 and R60 for attics. If you aren’t sure where your levels are at, turn to an HVAC contractor for help. Increasing insulation in areas prone to heat loss, such as attics, walls, basements, crawlspaces, and floors can reduce your energy consumption.
  • Insulate around outlets. To create an outlet, electricians cut a hole in the drywall, which also adds an area where heat can transfer. Consider insulating around outlet boxes by purchasing foam gaskets that fit underneath outlets or switch covers. Seal any remaining gap with caulk.
  • Air seal your house. Drafts around doors, windows, chimneys, exterior pipes, and wire penetrations can allow unheated air to leak into your home, while simultaneously letting your climate-controlled air move outdoors. The drafts can make home heating less efficient and difficult to control, since your furnace will have to work harder to maintain temperatures. Inspect your home for air leaks, and if you spot areas where there are gaps to the outside, work with a contractor to resolve the issue. HVAC technicians can perform building pressurization tests to spot leaks quickly. Small gaps can be sealed by a handy homeowner with caulk or a small can of spray foam insulation. Don’t forget to check and replace weather stripping on your exterior doors.
  • Take care of fireplace dampers. Fireplace dampers should fit within your chimney walls snugly to prevent heat loss. Check your damper during the day to see if you can see sunlight around the area. If it isn’t fitting properly, you may need to seal the damper with an appropriate kit, or reach out for professional service. If you don’t use your fireplace, think about plugging and sealing the entire device to stop heat loss. The damper in a fireplace chimney should fit snugly to the chimney walls to prevent heat loss.
  • Create windbreaks. Think about creating strategic windbreaks on your property to shield your home from sharp winds. Trees, shrubs, and even manmade hills can block wind and reduce windchill. Cold-hardy plants, such as dense evergreen bushes, work well.

Other At-Home Changes that Save Money

  • Take full advantage of window treatments. During the day, opening up your blinds and curtains gives you access to free passive heating from heat-generating UV light. Make sure any curtains and blinds are open on west-facing windows in the afternoons. However, when the sun goes down, trap that energy inside your home by closing blinds and curtains carefully. Make sure there aren’t gaps between the sides of your windows and outside, since a lack of coverage can create a small draft. Consider investing in insulate window coverings to save even more energy.
  • Wear extra layers. Instead of running for your thermostat as soon as you feel a chill, bundle up, even at home. Wear clothes that accommodate added layers like sweatshirts or jackets and reach for a blanket when you feel too cool. Keep plenty of blankets on hand in case you or your guests need to bundle up. Upgrade your bedding with warmer winter comforters and blankets so you can stay warm at night, without relying as much on your thermostat.
  • Add space heaters. If you rely on a single heat pump or furnace to heat your home, there may be rooms that are more prone to temperature dips. Uneven insulation, lack of windows, or even improper thermostat placement can create cold spots in homes. If you have particular rooms that tend to feel too cold, use an energy-efficient space heater to fix the problem. Ceramic, convection, infrared, or radiator space heaters can give rooms a boost of warmth without impacting your energy bill significantly. Always check for a UL (Underwriter’s Laboratory) label and practice good space heater safety.
  • Use fireplace dampers appropriately. If you are using a woodburning fireplace, make sure the flue damper is open to allow proper ventilation. When embers have all burned out, close the flue damper to prevent heat loss. If you forget and accidentally leave the flue open, heat from your home can be drawn out of your house. Gas fireplaces that are not vent-free should always have the damper left open to prevent back drafting, which can cause CO2 buildup inside your home. Turn off pilot lights to fireplaces not in use to conserve fuel.
  • Add draft stoppers. If you have sealed your doors with appropriate weatherstripping and you still notice drafts, pick up a few draft stoppers. These devices are typically filled with insulate material and designed to lay on the floor to prevent air leaks. Keep draft stoppers in place whenever the door is shut.
  • Change your ceiling fan direction. Ceiling fans may seem like a summer accessory, but they are versatile enough to be used during winter, too. All ceiling fans have a clockwise and a counter-clockwise setting. During winter, rotate the fan to clockwise to draw up new air and push down heated air that has risen, helping occupants to feel warmer. Only use ceiling fans if people are present in the room.
  • Lower the temperature setting on your water heater. If your water heat temperature setting is higher than what you need, you could be wasting energy and increasing the chance of someone in your household being scalded. While many systems are automatically set to 140 degrees, change yours to 120 degrees to save power. Lowering your water heater temperature can save energy by limiting standby heat loss.

Lower Your Heating Costs with Jarboe’s Plumbing, Heating & Cooling

Jarboe’s Plumbing, Heating & Cooling is committed to helping homeowners throughout the greater Louisville, Kentucky area to care for their HVAC systems and save as much as possible. Whether you need advice for lowering your home’s specific energy costs or it’s time for a system upgrade, their NATE-certified specialists are happy to answer your questions. Start making changes to reduce your home’s energy consumption by giving us a call today.

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