Utility Bill Assistance



Reducing home heating costs by making it more efficient.

There are many ways to reduce your household expenses, including heating bills. Some ways to save money include forgoing that morning cup of coffee to brown bagging your office lunch. In the end, though, it makes sense to focus your money saving efforts on the biggest expenses around your home, and utility as well as heating costs tend to be one of the bigger ones. That is even more true for residents of the Midwest, Northeast, and Northwest part of the country.

If you live in a northern state, then chances are that heating your home in the cold winter months is one of those large expenses, no matter whether you use propane, natural gas, electricity, or some other source. Learning how to control those home heating costs is one of the best ways to save money on your utility bills while still keeping your home and your family warm and comfortable.

When you start looking at your home heating costs, you may find these common problems around efficient. The steps below may help you address your winter heating bills as well as other parts of your home, including your heating system.

#1 - Your Furnace Might be Obsolete
If your furnace is more than 10 years old, chances are it is not as efficient as it could be. They even have energy efficient furnaces available as well, and these can have an annual fuel-utilization efficiency (AFUE) of 96 percent. So only 4 percent of the energy is “wasted”. If your home is more than a decade old and you have not yet replaced the furnace, you might want to look at that as your next home improvement project. The cost up front (which may be $2000-$3000 depending on many factors) will often pay for itself in a matter of 3-5 years.

Replacing a furnace is not a small project, and certainly not an inexpensive one. You can expect to spend thousands of dollars to replace your existing furnace, but the improvements in efficiency can lower your heating bills significantly.






In addition, you may be eligible for tax breaks and other financial incentives from the federal government that may be as high as $500 with each tax return. They will be available if you replace your old inefficient furnace with a newer and more efficient one, but look at the latest IRS regulations beforehand. Those incentives could further reduce the out-of-pocket costs and make swapping out the furnace an even smarter choice.

#2 Leaking Air, Windows, and Other Home Issues
All of those can cause your furnace to work harder than normal, and turn on more often, which adds to your heating bills. Asses your home to reduce your winter heating costs.
The fact is that even an efficiently running furnace can be expensive to run, but that cost can be far higher if you are making it work harder than it has to. Things like drafty windows, air escaping under doors, leaky windows and low levels of insulation can make your furnace work harder and cause your heating bills to soar.

The good news is that those things are all within your power, and there is even some government assistance for low income families from weatherization. Or your utility company may help a low to moderate income homeowner make their home or apartment more efficient.

You can go through your home and install new weather-stripping on the windows and doors before the cold winter months arrive. You can add more insulation to the walls and attic. You can use plastic sheeting to reduce energy loss from old windows. Making those simple changes now can help you save a lot of money when winter does arrive.

In fact, the USDOE, Consumer Reports, and other experts all say these types of improvements can reduce your utility bill by 10-30%...not just during the winter but also year round.

#3 - You Can Still Make Some Smart Changes
Some older central air conditioning units use the blower on the furnace to move that cool air throughout the home. While you may not think of the AC unit as being a cause for higher heating bills, it is very possible that the unit is also not efficient. Replacing that older air conditioning unit with a newer and more energy efficient model can reduce your cooling costs in the summer.

Replacing the blower on the furnace at the same time can cut your energy costs even more. Making both improvements at the same time can cut your home energy costs up to a third, more than justifying the cost of the project.






#4 A Free or Low Cost Home Energy Audit Can Pay for Itself
It is hard to make smart choices about your home energy costs and to find out where you can save money on heating bills if you do not know where you stand. If you wanted to get a handle on the finances for your business, you might hire an auditor to look at your books and see where you can make improvements. The same concept applies to your heating and cooling system.

Having the system examined by a qualified heating technician can help you spot inefficiencies and make the improvements that will save you the most money. A home energy audit typically costs a couple hundred dollars, but it can pay for itself many times over. However note that many utility companies will provide this service for free to their customers, or they give a big discount. Therefore also be sure to check with your energy provider for any assistance programs.

By: Jon McNamara


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