The National Energy Assistance Directors' Association (NEADA) reported that heating oil and propane costs jumped 28% in winter 2007 over the previous year, bringing the average heating bill for homes using those fuels to $1,800 for the season. The NEADA calculates that the new higher figure equates to double the average cost of heating a house from 2000 to 2005. Natural gas and electricity costs also increased approximately 6%-7% with the average winter heating bill at about $880, according to the NEADA.
As concerns grow over rising utility costs – not to mention the growing awareness about sustainability issues with the rapid depletion of natural resources – more homeowners are paying greater attention to maintenance projects that can lower their energy consumption. Making the connection between an efficient home and lower utility expenses is helping many people combat the numerous economic woes that have them struggling to buy groceries, put gas in their vehicles, and pay their mortgage. Every little maintenance project helps and lowering utilities bills is possible without compromising the comfort level within the confine of your home.
There are a number of projects that can be geared to helping keep your house in excellent condition while maximizing the use of any appliances, such as an air conditioner or heater, when the weather calls for that effort boost of comfort. Here are some ideas to consider:
- Window tinting and screens can block the intense rays of the sun so that you do not end up running the air conditioner 24/7 just to survive the summer months.
- Keep your drapes and blinds closed during the day in the warm months and wide open in the winter months.
- Upgrade your installation. New insulation does not come cheap, but the return on investment comes from the reduction of up to 25% in heating and cooling costs per year. A federal tax credit is also available for installing additional insulation in your home.
- Turn your water heater setting down to120 degrees, which can result in at least $50 in annual savings.
vReplace all your incandescent light bulbs with compact fluorescents, which can use approximately 75% less energy depending on the wattage you use. Just switching five of these light bulbs can yield a savings of $50 per year.
- Regularly check weather-stripping and caulking and repair as necessary to help prevent drafts and stop energy escaping from the home.
- Install attic fans and ceiling fans to minimize the use of air conditioners and heaters.
- Change air filters and consistently clean ventilation systems. This will increase the air flow through these systems so that they do not have to work as hard to reach the ideal temperature for your level of comfort.
- Maintain and use your fireplace(s). Remember to close the damper when the fireplace is not being used to keep the draft out. Regularly have a professional clean your chimney. Also consider putting a set of glass doors on the front of your fireplace to stop any other cold or hot air getting into the house when it is not being used.
- Make time to clean all of your appliances. This guarantees greater efficiency and lengthens their life. This means less waste and expense having to buy new appliances every few years. Also consider upgrading to the new energy-efficient appliances that are readily available that use less electricity and water.
Keeping track of leaks around the house can not only minimize the cost of repairing the damage that those drips and puddles can cause, but this type of regular maintenance can also decrease your water bill. Since many states fall under rationing regulations during summer months, your bill usually reflects a stiffer price per unit when you go over a certain limit.
Harnessing Green Power
With more people looking to shrink their carbon footprint and slash utility expenses, the idea of using solar and wind power has become a hot trend again, especially for swimming pool owners that get the shock of their lives when they open their bills to find out that running the pool heater every day was probably not the best idea. Solar systems for the swimming pool and the house can be expensive, ranging from $7,000 to more than $50,000, depending on the type of system you want to install as well as the size of your home.
The concept behind using solar power for the home is relatively simple. Solar panels are used to capture the sun’s rays and are converted into the alternating current that can be fed through the home’s existing electrical system. While certain systems resort back to regular utilities in the evening, other more sophisticated systems allow for complete reliance on solar power.
These systems drastically cut your contribution to the release of greenhouse gas into the atmosphere and virtually make your electricity bill disappear. Investing in this type of system will provide a substantial return in reduced utility bills and protection from brownouts and blackouts as well as offer an attractive increase in the property value when it comes time to sell.
Track Your Utility-Related Maintenance Projects
Whatever maintenance tasks you plan to address in the coming months that will help you lower your utility bills and become a little more greener, putting together a record or schedule of what you have accomplished will pay additional dividends as you grow the investment in your home. Ownersite Technologies offers an effective online mechanism for tracking, scheduling, and documenting all your home maintenance tasks.
With this Web portal, you can upload pictures of your projects and maintain electronic files that contain information about each maintenance task, including the costs, receipts, and professional assistance you may have received. All of these files can be shared with your friends and family to help improve their own utility records and carbon footprint as well as be used as a selling point to any interested buyers. The information is also effective for sharing with insurance companies and for tax filings. Making even some of the changes in this article can go a long way to lowering your bills, strengthening your home investment, and doing your share to help the earth heal and sustain itself.