Energy Efficiency can ‘Insulate’ Against Expected Higher Heating Costs

Release Date: Thursday, October 13, 2011

 Washington, D.C., October 13, 2011 – As the Energy Information Administration (EIA) predicts rising heating costs this winter for households using natural gas, propane and heating oil, the Alliance to Save Energy advises U.S. consumers to adopt energy efficiency measures to “insulate” their pocketbooks as well as their homes this winter. Prices for households heating with electricity should be about the same as last winter, according to EIA’s Winter Fuels Outlook.

Average expenditures for consumers of heating oil may be the highest ever – with a 10% annual increase in oil prices costing consumers another $193 this winter. And hikes in propane and natural gas prices are expected to increase home heating bills, too – all at a time when many American households are still struggling to make ends meet.

“With the cost of most heating fuels on the rise this winter, we encourage consumers to adopt energy-efficiency technologies and practices in their homes to keep their heating bills as low as possible without sacrificing comfort,” commented Alliance President Kateri Callahan.

The Alliance Suggests the Following Winter (and Year-round) Home Energy Tips:

  • Plug up leaks to the outside. Seal air leaks with sealant, caulking and weather stripping; and install appropriate insulation for your climate to increase your comfort, make your home quieter and cleaner and reduce your heating (and summer cooling) costs up to 20%. • Properly maintain your HVAC system. Just as a tune-up for your car can improve your gas mileage, a semi-annual or yearly tune-up of your heating and cooling system can improve efficiency and comfort. The federal government’s ENERGY STAR website can help you find a qualified contractor. 
  • Let a programmable thermostat “remember for you” to lower the heat while your home is empty and/or overnight to reduce heating costs by up to 10% – and allow you to come home and wake up to a toasty, comfortable house. 
  • Keep furnace filters clean. Check your filter every month, especially during heavy use months (winter and summer), and change it if it looks dirty. At a minimum, change the filter every three months. A dirty filter will slow down air flow and make the system work harder to keep you warm. A clean filter not only helps lower energy use and costs, it also helps avoid expensive maintenance and/or early system failure by preventing dust and dirt from building up in the system.
  •  Consider installing ENERGY STAR-qualified heating and cooling equipment. If you have to replace your HVAC equipment, consider a unit that has earned the ENERGY STAR label, the symbol of energy efficiency.
  • Seal your heating and cooling ducts. In a typical house with a forced air system, about 20% of the air that moves through the duct system is lost due to leaks, holes and poorly connected ducts. Sealing and insulating ducts increases efficiency, lowers home energy bills and can often pay for itself in energy savings. Also, a well-designed and sealed duct system may make it possible to downsize to a smaller, less costly heating and cooling system that will provide better dehumidification. Insulate ducts in unheated areas such as attics, crawlspaces and garages with duct insulation that carries an R-value of 6 or higher.  
  • Save on the cost of heating hot water. Keep the temperature at 120 degrees, and insulate the hot water storage tank according to manufacturer’s directions, without covering the thermostat. For detailed information, see the U.S. Department of Energy’s Energy Savers consumer booklet.
  •  Open curtains and other window treatments on your west- and south-facing windows during the day to allow sunlight to naturally heat your home, and close them at night.
  • Go “window shopping” to discover how high-performance ENERGY STAR-labeled windows can cut heating costs by as much as 30% compared to single-pane windows, while increasing indoor comfort and lessening fading of home furnishings. •
  • Also look for the ENERGY STAR label when replacing or buying appliances, electronics, lighting and many other types of products to save up to 30% in related electricity bills. See www.energystar.gov for more information

View Alliance videos illustrating home energy efficiency in action.

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