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Thought Of Winter Heating Bills Making You Chilly?


Warm up your home with these simple cost-savings tips

Do the thought of winter heating bills make you chilly?It’s that time of year again. The days are getting shorter and temperatures continue to drop. According to SDI Weather Trends, winter will arrive at your doorstep this year with a vengeance, challenging your endurance and your budget.

"There’s no question that winter can be beautiful - a winter landscape can take your breath away, but so can your energy bill," said home heating expert Barry Lawson of Southern States, one of the nation's top propane distributors. "Oil, natural gas and propane home heating costs are expected to go up due to increased energy consumption worldwide. Add predictions for a longer, colder winter, and consumers will be reaching deep into their pocketbooks to pay their heating bills."

Space heating represents about half of the energy consumed in the home; the other half is attributed to household appliances, lighting and water heating. According to the Department of Energy, Americans spend more than $160 billion a year to heat, cool and light their homes. Recent estimates by the U.S. Energy Information Administration predict households using fuel oil could spend up to 32 percent more this winter to heat their homes, those using propane will spend 30 percent more, and those using natural gas will spend 56 percent more in some areas.

"The Energy Department is correct in their assessment that home heating fuel prices will be higher this year than last year," said Charlie Sample, President, Professional Energy Management Corporation. "Even though we've come off 30 - 40% in the short term, and there may be weaker prices ahead, we are still 45 - 50% higher than we were last year for oil and natural gas."

Furnaces and boilers are used to heat most homes. "Heating oil, natural gas and propane consumers should talk to their local oil heat or propane retailer or natural gas provider about options such as budget plans and system improvements," continued Lawson. "Regardless of the price of home heating fuel, furnaces and boilers should be inspected annually. Conservation continues to be the best strategy for space heating energy savings."

The most important step you can take towards energy savings when it comes to space heating is to conduct a home energy audit. The U.S. Department of Energy offers tips on how to conduct your own home energy audit or how to select a professional to conduct the audit for you. Once you conduct the audit, you will know the source of major energy losses such as windows and doors, improper insulation, and other cracks and leaks. For details on how to conduct your own home energy audit or how to select a professional, as well as how to plug up all those leaks, visit http://www.eere.energy.gov/consumer/your_home/.

Oilheat

The National Oilheat Research Alliance (NORA) has created a training guide "Efficient Oilheat, An Energy Conservation Guide"; which is the foundation for NORA Gold Certification or Oilheat service personnel. The program educates technicians on energy conservation strategies ranging from thermostat replacements to system redesign and how to analyze energy savings for the consumer. NORA estimates energy costs can be lowered by 20-25 percent for most customers.

Natural Gas and Propane

The American Gas Association offers tips on energy efficiency as well. In addition to annual inspections and installing an automatic setback or programmable thermostat, they recommend insulating your hot water heater and setting it at 120 degrees. Other tips include installing flow-restricting shower heads and increasing your water heater's efficiency by draining it every six months to remove mineral deposits and sediment. For more information, visit www.aga.org. The Propane Education & Research Council (www.usepropane.org) offers tips to propane users as well as general energy savings tips.  Both organizations recommend you change or clean filters monthly.

Once you've maximized your savings on space heating, you can reduce your overall energy bills by focusing on appliances and lighting. The National Energy Assistance Directors' Association (NEADA) publishes the Energy Savers Tipbook, with ideas on everything from lighting to dish washing to cooking to laundry.


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