High Home Energy Costs: Sign of Tough Economy
High home energy costs are just one more example of our fluctuating economy. Average home heating costs are higher than average this year: $971 for this winter season compared to $807 average for 2002-2007. Because of the increase in home energy costs, more and more people are turning to government assistance to heat their homes. The Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) had a record number of applicants and is expected to reach approximately 7.3 million households--800,000 more than the record set in 1985.
With utilities ranking the 4th most important bill to pay, this record number of applicants for LIHEAP reflects the continuing deterioration in the nation's economy resulting in higher unemployment and reduced hours of work for many others, according to Mark Wolfe, Executive Director of the National Energy Assistance Directors' Association.
If you don't happen to have an extra $971 sitting around to heat your home this winter, there are still some things you can do to reduce your home energy costs. The U.S. Department of Energy offers the following tips.
Ways to Reduce the Heating Bill
Set your thermostat as low as is comfortable in the winter.
Clean or replace filters on furnaces once a month or as needed.
Clean warm-air registers, baseboard heaters, and radiators as needed; make sure they're not blocked by furniture, carpeting, or drapes.
Turn off kitchen, bath, and other exhaust fans within 20 minutes after you are done cooking or bathing.
Close your curtains and shades at night and open them during the day; especially south-facing windows.
Use a heavy-duty, clear plastic sheet on a frame or tape clear plastic film to the inside of your window frames during the cold winter months, and seal tightly.
Install tight-fitting, insulating window shades.
Home Energy Cost Reduction: Seal Air Leaks
Caulk and weatherstrip doors and windows that leak air.
Caulk and seal air leaks where plumbing, ducting, or electrical wiring penetrates through exterior walls, floors, ceilings, and soffits over cabinets.
Install rubber gaskets behind outlet and switch plates on exterior walls.
When the fireplace is not in use, keep the flue damper tightly closed.
Reduce Energy Usage
Reducing the amount of energy wasted around the house will save you money on your next electric, water or other energy bill.
Switch to compact fluorescent light bulbs (CFLs).
Air dry dishes.
Turn off your computer and monitor when not in use.
Plug home electronics, such as TVs and DVD players, into power strips; turn the power strips off when the equipment is not in use (TVs and DVDs in standby mode still use several watts of power).
Lower hot water heater thermostat to 120°F.
Take short showers instead of baths.
Wash only full loads of dishes and clothes.