Here are some simple and quick tips on how to save energy at home and lower your heating costs.

Everyone is trying to stretch their budget these days. Heating your home can be a big part of your monthly expense, and any unexpected price rise in heating oil prices, propane prices or natural gas prices can really throw that budget out of line.

Below you will find several tips that will help you save money on you heating bills. Some will be no cost, while others will be low costs ways (under $100) that you can do yourself.

· Lower your thermostat to 68 degrees or below if you can.

This is the quickest method to lower you heat bill. Setting it back a few degrees will save you money starting now. For each 1 degree that you lower your thermostat, you can roughly save 2% on your heating cost. If you have to, put on some socks and or a sweatshirt to stay comfortable.

· Set back the thermostat when you leave your home or when you sleep.

Here’s a fast way to save 10% to 15% on your heating expenses. Set the temperature back 10 degrees during the day while no one is home. It doesn’t make sense to heat up and empty home, does it? You should also set it back at night while you are sleeping. You will be under blankets, so the temperature can be comfortably lowered.

What about when you wake up in the morning or when you come home? Won’t the house be cold? This why you should buy a programmable thermostat.

· Reasons why you should install a programmable thermostat

This is a cheap investment to make that can pay itself back in very little time. A programmable thermostat allows you to pre-set what you time you want the heat to come on and off. This way when you set it low while you are at work, you can set it to begin heating your home before you come home. Now you can come in to a warm home from the cold temperatures outside. You can also set it to begin heating your home before you wake up so you won’t be chilly when you get out of bed. This is very convenient to have.

You can install this yourself easily. There is no need to hire a contractor or a handy man. Each thermostat will come with simple to follow instructions on how to remove your old thermostat and install your new one. Programmable thermostats can be purchased online starting at about $20.

Read how to buy a programmable thermostat here

Read how to install a programmable thermostat here

· Change Your Furnace Filter

Changing your furnace filter is an easily overlooked part of saving money on fuel costs. Many people think it’s too hard to change them or have to call someone in to do that. In reality it is very easy to do.

When you change your furnace filter, it allows your furnace to work more efficiently. If the air flow is blocked, this will cause the furnace to work harder, and will increase your heating costs. Click here for more information on furnace filters.

· Check for drafts around doors and windows

This is another quick, easy, and cheap way to save money heating your home. Air leaks around Windows and doors will make your home to cold and drafty and will increase your heating costs. This is a simple problem to solve.

On a windy day, go to each and every window and door and either feel for drafts or use an incense stick and see if the smoke gets blown. Oftentimes you need to replace the weather stripping around doors and windows. You can also wait until the sun is down and shine a flashlight around the doors. If you see light, you can see where the heated air you are paying for is escaping. Replacing the weather stripping is easy. Weather-stripping kits are inexpensive and will only take a few minutes to apply and seal and will help prevent you from wasting any more money.

It will also pay to check the weather-stripping seals around windows. After a while they crack and become worn out. This also allows cold air to seep in. Check and replace all seals to your windows also check the locking mechanism ensures a tight seal too.

Read more on window and door weatherstripping here.

· Look for air leaks around pipes and wires

Check for air leaks around the pipes in the kitchen and bathrooms. Open up the cabinet under your sink. You will probably see a gap around the pipes in the wall. Check to see if you feel a breeze or cold air coming through the gaps. To stop those air leaks you can use either bits of insulation to jam into the gap, or a small amount of spray foam insulation to fill it.

Read more on how to stop those air leaks around the pipes and wires

· Caulk all windows and doors

Once again this is a simple job you can do. Inspect the existing caulking outside and around your doors and windows. If you see the caulk cracking or missing, then odds are that cold air is making its way into your home.

First, remove the old caulk. This will allow for better adhesion and seal when you do this. Once the old caulk is cleaned out, place a nice bead of new caulk around doors and windows. You can do this over the weekend, or do a window or two each day when you come home from work.

You may also want to remove the molding around your windows and doors and check for gaps between the window and the framing. Often times there is little or no insulation in that gap. That is what I discovered with my windows. I then bought a can of Great Stuff foam insulation to fill those gaps. I removed the moldings, sprayed the foam in and nailed the moldings back into place. It only took a few minutes to do.

Learn more on how to caulk your windows and doors here.

· Do you have storm windows and doors?

Storm doors and windows are an effective way to help insulate your windows. If the windows in your home are older one pane glass, and installing new double or triple pane windows are too expensive, then consider installing storm windows. If you already have storm windows in your home, be sure that they are closed tightly and are sealed. If adding storm windows are is out of your budget now, then consider using plastic window film to add some insulation to your windows and to cut drafts.

· Use plastic window film

One way to keep air from coming through a window is to use a plastic film window insulator. This is very easy to install. Simply take the plastic film to the window frame and use a hairdryer to shrink the plastic film to fit. I read online how one person install this on for drafty windows in under an hour. They used 3M Window Film. This was done at a cost of less than $20 for all four windows.

Learn how to buy and install window insulation film here.

· Let the sun warm up your room

Open up your shades or blinds on the south facing windows of your home. This is solar heat, and it is free. You may want to trim any trees or bushes that obstruct the windows. This can help warm your home. At night, close the blinds or curtains to help retain the heat.

· Close the flue to the fireplace

When you are done using the fireplace and it is cool, remember to close the flue. An open flue allows hot air to escape up the chimney. Closing it will keep most of that warm air in, but no flue seals 100%. To create a better seal, you can purchase a chimney draft stopper balloon. This is a balloon that inflates inside your flue to seal and prevent warm air from escaping. When you want to use the fireplace, you simply deflate it and remove it. It is reusable.

You should also have glass doors to close your fireplace when not in use. This will act as another barrier to prevent hot air from going up the chimney.

Learn how to buy and install a chimney balloon to help insulate your chimney.

· Lower the temperature to your hot water heater

When you place your hand under the running hot water and you can’t keep it there, then your water is too hot. Lowering your setting can save you money. You should set the water heater to about 120°. That will be hot enough for showers, dish washing and washing clothes. Plus when you lower your water temperature it lessens the chance someone scalding him or herself. This is also good to do if you have small children in your home.

· Check your duct work

You would be surprised how much hot air can escape from your ducts, if they are not properly sealed. I found this out the hard way. I was in my basement working one day while the heat was on. I reached up on a shelf and felt warm air blowing on me. I felt the joint where the duct was attached and couldn’t believe the hot air I felt coming out of it. I then checked the other joints and found other leaks as well. No wonder the upstairs bedroom was cold. To seal those joints, do NOT use duct tape. I know that sounds strange, but duct tap shrinks and loses it adhesion to the ducts. Instead, you will need to use UL rated tape like mastic tape or butyl tape. These will seal the joints much better and will last longer than regular duct tape. This stopped the hot air from leaking out of the ducts, plus I now have additional pressure to force hot air upstairs to the bedroom.

Read how to seal those leaks in your ducts here

· Keep forced air registers, radiators and baseboards clear of all obstructions.

Look around your home, are any of the vents blocked? Are they hidden behind furniture and drapes? This will obviously restrict airflow and will cause your furnace to work harder costing you money. No sense blocking the heat, right?

Also be sure to allow the air return to be clear from being blocked too. You should check to maintain the free flow of air back to the furnace.

This also holds true for radiators and baseboard heat. Be sure they are not blocked in any way. Air needs to circulate around the radiator and baseboard for maximum efficiency. You may also want to vacuum the coils in the baseboard. Dirt and hair from your pets can act as a barrier and prevent the heat from entering the room.

· Remove window air conditioning units

Leaving an air conditioner in the window is a good way to waste money. You are letting a large amount of cold air into that room. Remove it and close it up. If you have an air conditioner in the wall, then you must buy an air conditioner cover to put over the unit on the outside. This will help prevent cold air from sneaking into the room.

Read how to install a window air conditioner cover here

· Use a door sweep

Have ever felt the bottom of the door going into your garage? How about the bottom of your front door? Do you feel that draft? That’s your money going out under the door. This is where a door sweeper comes in handy. These are very inexpensive and will keep out the cold air and keep the warm air in. These can be installed on any doors that lead outside. I even used a self-adhesive door sweeper on the sliding glass door that goes out to the deck. I felt the breeze coming through there last year and solve that problem quickly.

Read more about installing a door sweep here.

· Do you have access to the attic?

Since heat rises, heat will try to escape through your ceiling and roof. When you have a door or a hatch in the ceiling to get into the attic, make sure that it is sealed up the vendor heat from escaping that way. If sealing it doesn’t prevent warm ari from escaping, then you can buy an attic door insulation cover to stop that heat loss.

Learn more about attic insulators here.

· Designate one room as a warm room

Here’s an interesting way to lower your energy bills. Do you use essentially only one room, for example the den at night to watch TV or read or go online and read this post? You can lower the heat in the rest of the house and use a ceramic heater to keep you warm in the den. Ceramic heaters are much safer and easier to use than a kerosene heater. There are several good ceramic heaters to choose from. Some even come with a remote control so you don’t have to get up and adjust the temperature.

Read how do ceramic heaters work here

· Drafts from light switches and wall outlets

This is another source of air leaks into your home on a cold and windy day. Go and feel around those wall plugs and light switches, especially the ones on the outside walls. You can buy and install pre-cut foam that fits and seals behind the switch plates to limit those air leaks. These are very inexpensive to buy.

Learn more about buying and installing foam insulating light switches and outlets here.

All of those previous suggestions you are able to do at no cost or at very little cost. These next suggestions will cost some money, but will be worth the investment.

· Have your furnace tuned up every two years

This is just smart preventive maintenance. This will help keep your furnace running at its peak efficiency. You should have it tuned up during the summer. You dealer will have more time to service it, and you might be able to negotiate a lower price on having that work done then. You’ll also want this done before the heating season in case there is an issue with your furnace. This can help you avoid a furnace break down in the middle of the winter. This may be part of a service plan that you already have with your heating oil or propane dealer.

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