Here we are, about two weeks into winter, with December’s utility bills either in hand or on the way. If you haven’t given much thought recently to saving money on heat, and energy in general, now’s a good time to start.
Here are suggestions from the U.S. Department of Energy, Peco Energy Co., PSE&G, and the state governments, among others.
• Remember the basics: Keep up maintenance on heating and ventilation units, because finely tuned equipment runs more efficiently. Change your air filters monthly. If you haven’t had the service people in yet, schedule a visit.
• Monitor the thermostat: Set it as low as you find comfortable. The Energy Department suggests rolling temperatures back by 10 to 15 degrees before bed and before leaving for work. Utility companies simply recommend setting your thermostat at 68 or lower during the day, “health permitting,” then setting it lower at night or when you’ll be away for more than four hours.
• Plug those air leaks: This can save up to 10 percent on energy bills — and is probably the easiest way to cut costs. Seal doors and windows with weather stripping or caulk, which you can buy for $2.50 to $5 at the home center or hardware store. Tape clear plastic film to the inside of window frames to further reduce leaks, and consider insulated curtains or blinds.
• Let the sun shine: Take advantage of the heat and light that radiates your way by keeping south-facing windows clean. Open curtains on those windows during the day; close all curtains at night.
• Add attic insulation: If you take the proper precautions, wearing loose-fitting clothes and a mask and safety glasses, this can be a do-it-yourself project. Insulation isn’t all that expensive, either. For maximum energy efficiency, Owens Corning recommends an insulation value of R-60 for attic floors, or about 18 inches of insulation. R-value calculators can be found at several Internet sites.
• Dial it down: Most water heaters are set to 140 degrees, but at 115 to 120 degrees, you’ll save money and still have plenty of hot water. Be sure to insulate hot water pipes, and consider installing timers that use off-peak power for electric water heaters; hot-water recirculation loops; and drain-water heat-recovery systems.
• Fire it up properly: Plug and seal the chimney flues of fireplaces that are never used. But if you do use your fireplace, keep the damper closed unless a blaze is going, and be sure the damper is as snug as possible. Caulk around the fireplace hearth. Consider installing tempered-glass doors and a heat-exchanger system to blow warm air back into the room. When a fire is lit, open dampers or open the nearest window about an inch, close doors leading into the room, and lower the thermostat to between 50 and 55 degrees. Turn your furnace down when using the fireplace.
• With wood stoves and pellet-burning heaters, clean the flue vent regularly and the inside of the appliance periodically with a wire brush.
• Investigate budget billing: Utilities often allow customers in good financial standing to participate in budget billing — dividing annual energy costs into equal monthly payments.