The winter months can be particularly difficult for those who need to heat their homes. I spent a lot of time living in an apartment where the gas was included Ė and therefore the heat with it. But Iíve also lived in private buildings and in homes where increased gas, electric (for baseboard/water heat, or petroleum costs have really crippled my budget. No matter what type of heat you use, there are some things you can do to keep your energy costs in check.
Look for Government Programs
If you are a low-income household, start by looking to see if there are government programs to help with your heating costs. For example, in Pennsylvania there is a program called LIHEAP, which is based on your income. You can apply for credits that can be used towards your winter utility bills. The program is first come, first serve each year, though, so you have to act quickly to try to get in while there are still funds available.
Check Your Window and Door Seals
Make sure your windows are properly caulked and make sure the weatherstripping material around your doors is in good repair. Replacing either can be done for a few dollars and will prevent cold drafts from entering while keeping your heat from escaping.
Use a Programmable Thermostat
You probably see this tip everywhere, but itís important. Programmable thermostats help to keep your home at a constant temperature when you arenít around and can start to raise your temperature before you get home from work or school. The lower the temperature in your home drops during the day, the harder it will be for your home to reheat at night, when itís even colder out. It may feel like itís counterproductive to keep your home slightly warmer when youíre not there, but it will actually save you money.
Unblock Your Registers
Make sure your heating vents and registers arenít blocked by furniture. You may think that having the furniture moved out a few inches is helping, but itís still blocking the air and preventing it from circulating in the room. This makes your heating system less effective and causes it to run longer.
Use Your Ceiling Fans
Heat rises, which means your hot air is floating around up at the ceiling while youíre down on the couch wrapped in a blanket. Put your ceiling fan on its lowest setting so that the air can circulate without adding any chill to the air. If your fan has two directional settings, youíre in even better shape. During the summer months, the counter-clockwise turn will create a breeze and chill the room. During the winter months, set the fan to turn clockwise so that it pulls the cold air up while pushing the warm air down.
There are tons of things you can do to cut back here and there. Try one or try a few. Every penny counts!