Simple Steps to Cut Heating Costs

This boiler is fueled with propane and has quite an appetite on cold days. Heating with propane is expected to get 13 percent more expensive this year.
This boiler is fueled with propane and has quite an appetite on cold days. Heating with propane is expected to get 13 percent more expensive this year. (By Tim Carter)
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By Tim Carter
Saturday, September 27, 2008

Q. DEAR TIM: What can I do to lower the cost of heating my home? The cost of fuel is going up faster that I can pay the bills. What are you going to do this winter in your home to lower your cost?

-- Carole P., Meredith, N.H.

A. You are not alone in your concern about the rising prices of all home-heating fuels. The U.S. Energy Information Administration predicts double-digit price increases for this year, estimating that average households will spend 30 percent more than last year on home heating oil, 19 percent more on natural gas and 13 percent more on propane.

Many of us have very little extra money in the budget. If that's your situation, think hard about spending large sums of money on a product or project that will save you money over time. Remember, when you spend money to save money, you start to see the real savings only once you have completely paid for the service or product with the energy savings. In some cases this can take as long as 10 or 15 years.

I have a personal interest in this because I bought a second home to live in while my new house is being built. My family is split between places, and I will be paying to heat two houses. You can bet that I'm taking as many steps as possible to lower the heating costs.

There are many cost-saving things you should do that require some time and small amounts of money. First, minimize or eliminate as many air leaks as possible. Caulk gaps around windows and doors. Look around the inside and outside of the windows and doors for gaps where the trim molding contacts the frames and wall surfaces. Air can sneak into these gaps and add up to a significant loss of energy.

As you look at your energy bills, pay attention to your electric bill. The amount you pay in the winter can be substantial. The shorter days mean lights are on longer. You can bet that lights at my houses will be on only in rooms where there are people. Consider switching to compact fluorescent bulbs one by one as you buy replacement bulbs. These really can help you save over time.

But to save really big money on your heating costs, all you have to do is use less fuel. This is something you can control with a flick of your wrist. Simply turn your thermostat down -- way down. A programmable thermostat that can help you turn down the heat while you are away or asleep can pay for itself in weeks if you get really aggressive.

Many of us have become spoiled with the comfort level in our homes. Our ancestors lived in drafty houses that had little or no insulation, weather stripping or central heat. They lived long enough to help sire our generation, so we know they survived many a cold day and night.

Why not do what I plan to do? Consider turning down your thermostat to the lower 60s when you are in the house and into the mid-50s when you are asleep or away. When you are home, wear more clothes -- hooded sweatshirts, long underwear and slippers with lambswool linings. Sleep with flannel pajamas and extra covers. These are all things you probably already own, so you do not have to spend money to make it through the winter.

Tim Carter can be contacted via his Web site,

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