Baby, it's cold outside. And that likely means your heating bill is on fire.
The U.S. Energy Information Administration is forecasting double-digit percentage increases in average heating oil and propane prices this year thanks to higher crude oil prices, colder winter temperatures and lower fuel inventories compared with last year.
For those who aren't careful, that will put a chill on the household budget.
Yet simple savings strategies can reduce your utility bills and help you lead a more efficient lifestyle, said Amy Brightfield, the features director at Better Homes & Gardens.
Here are her tips on how to save money at home during the coldest time of the year:
Mind the gaps
- Seal gaps around windows and doors with caulk or weather stripping to keep the cold air out and watch your energy bills drop by up to 20 percent. (Also, close the fireplace damper when it's not being used and check your dryer vent cap to make sure it closes tightly.)
- Adding fiberglass insulation to your attic floor and house walls will save up to 30 percent on heating and cooling costs. Check out the U.S. Department of Energy's energy saver tool that recommends the most efficient level of insulation based on ZIP code.
- Replace outdated appliances with efficient new models and save roughly $75 per year on energy. The same goes with your furnace or boiler. Energy Star-qualified models have a range of efficiencies, so compare models and go with the most efficient (check out EnergyStar.gov).
- If your home has single-pane windows, that could be wasting up to 25 percent of your energy costs. Installing double-pane Energy Star-rated windows will make a big difference.
- Replacing incandescent bulbs with compact fluorescent lightbulbs, or CFLs, costs about $1 more per bulb, but they use 75% less energy and last 10 times longer. It takes about 17 days to recoup the difference, Brightfield said.
- Installing a programmable thermostat like Nest lets you set times for the furnace to run and won't waste energy on an empty house. A gadget like this pays for itself in less than a year.
- Turning your water heater down to 110 degrees will make a big impact. The Department of Energy estimates that lowering your water heater thermostat can save you $12 to $30 per year for every 10 degrees you lower the temperature.
- Switch to smart power strips that cut off the juice to peripheral devices (say, your DVD player or game systems) when a primary device (the TV) is off. Leaving gadgets and charger cords plugged in when they're not being used can account for as much as 10 percent of a home's energy use.
- Washing clothing in cold water will reduce water-heating costs since you won't have to start up the water heater.