Alliance Offers Consumers Tips to Reduce Winter Energy Bills as Heating Oil, Natural Gas Prices Increase, Forecasters Predict 'Normal' Cold Winter Temperatures
Last winter's warmer-than-normal temperatures helped buffer the impact of a sliding economy by keeping home energy costs down. But this year, with the Iraq situation escalating and “normally cold” winter weather expected, consumers could be hit with higher heating bills — up to 19 percent higher if they use natural gas and 45 percent for home heating oil.
While such increases could put a dent in consumers' pocketbooks, and in the economy, consumers can take steps to cope with rising costs by cutting down on home energy bills and diverting money for other needs, while staying warm throughout the winter months.
“Consumers cannot control global markets that dictate the prices for the oil and gas needed to heat their homes this winter,” noted Alliance to Save Energy President David M. Nemtzow. “But they can control the amount they end up paying on their heating bills by employing some common-sense energy-efficiency measures around the house,” Nemtzow said.
October is Energy Awareness Month, and the Alliance to Save Energy encourages consumers to be “energy conscious” by following these easy, money-saving, energy efficiency tips to reduce their home energy costs with no sacrifice to comfort.
ENERGY EFFICIENCY INVESTMENTS
- Refinancing your home because of lower interest rates? Consider wrapping in energy-efficiency home improvements that would reduce your monthly energy bills, or consider a home equity loan whose interest could be tax deductible.
- To cut your utility bills by up to 30 percent, look for the Energy Star label, the symbol for energy efficiency, when shopping for heating and cooling systems, major kitchen appliances, lighting, windows, and home electronics. Find retailers near you at www.energystar.gov.
- Cooling and heating account for almost half of the average family's energy bill. Make sure your furnace or heat pump receives a professional “tune-up” each year. Clean or replace air filters in your forced air heating system once a month, and help your unit run more efficiently.
- Plug energy “leaks.” Your idle (turned off) electronics and appliances — TVs, VCRs, cable boxes, CD players, cassette decks, and microwaves — continue to consume electricity to keep display clocks lit and memory chips and remote controls working, costing consumers $3 billion annually. When replacing such items, look for the Energy Star label.
- Thinking of upgrading those rattling windows? Ask your supplier for energy-efficient windows with double panes and low-emissive coatings so you can star gaze in comfort this winter. (For specifics to meet your climate and needs, visit www.efficientwindows.org)
- Buying a new home or vehicle? Energy Star homes can improve your home's resale value by $20 for every $1 reduction in utility costs, while also reducing pollution. Find participating builders and developers in your area at www.energystar.gov/homes. Select fuel-efficient cars, including the most fuel efficient SUVs, at www.fueleconomy.com.
NO COST OR LOW-COST TIPS
- Tired of awakening to a chilly bedroom on winter mornings? A programmable thermostat will automatically coordinate your home temperature with your daily and weekend patterns to increase comfort and monetary savings.
- Don't like coming home to a dark house on those short winter days? Instead of leaving lights on, put timers on a few of the lights in your home, or install motion detectors on exterior floodlights to improve your home security. After you get inside, the sensor will “remember” to turn the lights off.
- Let nature do its work. Allow the sun to help heat your home by keeping blinds or drapes of sun-exposed windows open in the daytime. Close blinds at night to conserve heat. Close all unoccupied areas to reduce the need for heat. Close the dampers on fireplaces when not in use.
- “4 for the Planet.” Replace your four most used 100-watt incandescent bulbs with four comparable 23-watt compact fluorescent bulbs to save $108 over three years. If all U.S. households did this, we'd save as much energy as is consumed by some seven million cars annually.
- Free Alliance to Save Energy resources. Obtain a free booklet, Power$mart: Easy Tips to Save Money and the Planet, by calling 1-888-878-3256 or previewing an animated web version. The Power$mart contains a check-off list that can easily go on your refrigerator and help you keep track of how well you are meeting energy-efficiency goals for your home. An interactive Home Energy Checkup allows handymen (and women) to troubleshoot their homes' energy waste while calculating efficiency improvements — both at www.ase.org/consumer.
- Consider safer, more efficient Energy Star torchiere lamps over popular halogen torchiere lamps, which can cause fires, according to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission. While relatively inexpensive to purchase, halogen torchiere lamps are expensive to operate.
- Listen to your mother. (“Do you think we own the power company?!”) Turn off everything not in use: lights, TVs, computers.