The sun is definitely setting earlier and the temperatures are much cooler regardless of where you call home.
And as temperatures outside drop, heating costs do the opposite and rise. Between colder weather and an increase in fuel prices, U.S. households may see their costs go up as much as 20 percent compared to last year.
The winter of 2017–2018 is expected to be colder than the previous year, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Ultimately, this equates to higher heating bills no matter what kind of fuel you consume.
If you heat with natural gas, which nearly half of U.S. households do, expect a 12 percent increase in your heating costs. The 40 percent of homes that heat with electricity will see an 8 percent rise in heating costs, and homes using heating oil (5 percent) or propane (also 5 percent) will feel an increase of 17 percent and 18 percent, according to the Winter Fuels Outlook from the U.S. Energy Information Administration.
But before you panic, here are some tips homeowners can try to offset rising prices. Having your heating equipment serviced by a professional is the logical place to begin. Next, you may opt for this step-by-step guide from Consumer Reports.
Tip 1: Seal Air Leaks
Drafts are usually found around windows and doors, however, the biggest air leaks are typically in attics and basements. If you have an easily accessible attic check to make sure your insulation is covering the areas where leaks are likely to occur — where the walls meet the attic floor, the access hatch, and around plumbing and electrical fixtures, offers Consumer Reports.
If you have a basement, look where the foundation meets the framing of the house and where wiring conduits and plumbing enter through the foundation. To stop your losses around windows and doors, try plugging holes with a combo of weather-stripping, caulk, or expandable foam.
Professionals can perform a blower door test to see where the air leaks. But you can try a low-tech version by turning on all of your home’s exhaust fans and holding an incense stick near windows, doors, and electrical outlets. If the smoke blows sideways, there’s a leak that needs plugging.
Tip 2: Set Thermostat
If you haven’t upgraded to a programmable or smart thermostat yet, it’s time to take the plunge. The device will automatically lower the heat when you’re asleep or away from home. This device may save you $50 a year or more on your energy costs, according to Energy Star.
Tip 3: Check the Filters
This tip applies to homes with forced-air heating. If you have the system professionally serviced, filter replacement should be included. For optimal efficiency, you need to replace the filter every few months.
First, turn off the furnace. Then remove the existing furnace filter, located inside the furnace or return air vent. Note the furnace filter size printed on the cardboard frame. Purchase a replacement filter from a home center, hardware store, or online retailer.
Slide the new filter into place; check for the markings that indicate which side of the filter should face the furnace. Keep a record of the date so that you’ll know when it’s time to change the furnace filter again. Replace any cover that goes over the filter.
This is also a smart time to make sure the warm-air registers throughout your home aren’t blocked by furniture. Why? Because this will make the system run less efficiently, increasing your utility bills.
Try combining these steps to help deal with price increases in home heating fuel. There are some other changes you can make, such as opening drapes, blinds and other window dressings on any south-facing windows during the day. Why? This will let the sunlight in to warm your home, and keep your fireplace damper closed unless a fire is burning.