Staying Warm This Winter Without Spending More
This year, significantly higher fuel costs are making it harder for New Hampshire’s families to afford to heat their homes. But you don’t have to live in an icebox! You can cut your energy bills, help the environment, and still stay warm by taking a few simple steps to maximize your home’s energy efficiency.
On average, heating and cooling accounts for about 44 percent of annual home energy use. Making sure your heating system is working efficiently and reducing heat loss around your home can have a significant impact on your energy use – and lower your fuel bills! An energy efficient home can use half as much fuel as an inefficient home. So, first, have your service technician tune up your furnace. A well-maintained furnace will burn fuel more efficiently, requiring less fuel to provide the same amount of heat. This step alone can reduce your fuel costs by 5 to 10 percent! A well-maintained, efficient furnace also produces less air pollution, helping to protect air quality.
Second, pay attention to the temperature at which your thermostat is set. By lowering your thermostat from 72°F to 65°F when you are asleep or away, you will cut your heating bill up to 10 percent. For guaranteed savings, upgrade to an automatic setback or programmable thermostat, which will automatically adjust the temperature for you.
Third, inspect your home for ways to reduce drafts and improve the circulation of warm air, which will make your home feel warmer even at a lower temperature. Clean heating registers and make sure they are not blocked by furniture, carpeting, or drapes. Check the roof, walls, outlets and switches, floors, windows, and doors for air leaks by passing incense along the area to watch for blowing smoke. Sealing leaks with weather stripping, caulk, or insulation can save another 10% on your energy bill. Adequate insulation in your attic, ceilings, exterior and basement walls, floors, and crawlspaces, can save you up to 25% on home energy bills. You can hire a professional to inspect your home for energy efficiency or participate in a free home energy audit offered by some fuel providers.
Finally, look for ways to change your daily routine to conserve energy and purchase heat-saving energy-efficient products. On sunny days, take advantage of the free solar heat by opening blinds, shades and curtains, especially on southern facing windows. Close blinds and drapes at night to keep warm air inside. When you leave on vacation, turn down the water and home heating thermostats. When possible, close the door and turn down the heat on an unoccupied room. And, if you are shopping for new appliances, windows or doors, look for products with the ENERGY STAR label.
There are many other ways to reduce your energy use around the home, such as energy conserving landscaping, use of efficient lighting and appliances, and lowering your water heating thermostat to 120°F and/or conserving hot water. There are also home energy audits, weatherization, and bill assistance programs available for those that qualify. For more information on energy conservation and assistance, contact the NH Office of Energy and Planning Stay Warm NH Web site or call 271-2155. For more information on what you can do to help reduce air pollution, visit the NH Department of Environmental Services Web site.
To find out if you are eligible for various rebates and energy efficient services through your electric utility, visit www.nhsaves.com. If you use natural gas as your heating source, contact your provider for similar programs.