Does Mother Nature Pay Your Heating Bill?

Are you one of those homeowners who knows the exact day their heating and electric bills are delivered every month? You’re not alone.

The truth is, none of us enjoy having to shell out sometimes significant chunks of change every month for what feel like basic necessities, but most of us just accept it as a reality of home ownership. However, if you’ve reached the point where your utility costs are getting so out of hand that you find yourself putting on oven mitts to check your heating bill out of fear that direct contact might actually burn your skin, it might be time for you to come up with a plan.

When it comes to utilities, it’s important to remember that you are in control of your costs, not Mother Nature. Here are a few tips to help you save money by increasing the efficiency of your home.

Audit your home’s energy to determine where your money is literally flying out the… door, floor, wall or window
As the saying goes, the first step to solving any problem is realizing you have one. If you’re suffering from the utility cost blues, a professional energy auditor might be a great first step toward a solution. Whether you have an ancient furnace or hot water heater, inefficient windows, poorly installed doors, non-insulated walls or ceilings, or various other defects that waste energy, a good energy auditor can pinpoint problem areas and show you the true impact they might be having on your wallet. While it might seem like an unpleasant and costly investment to replace some of these inefficient fixtures, both Massachusetts and New Hampshire have rebate and lending programs in place to help you make these repairs.

Inexpensive investments and smarter choices in your daily habits can help out a lot too. When it comes to energy, not every change has to be a massively expensive repair. Developing good habits when it comes to consumption of utilities can knock dollars off your monthly costs as well. Taking an extra minute before leaving to walk around the house and make sure the lights are turned off is a money saver in the long run. The same thing goes for such seemingly minor choices as: waiting until the dishwasher is full to run a cycle, washing and drying full loads of laundry, and unplugging infrequently used appliances or electronics when you’re not using them to keep them from drawing electricity.
Small investments you make in your home will pay for themselves over time. Installing high efficiency light bulbs will consume less energy, and generally have to be replaced less often. Another smart move is to replace old analog thermostats with newer, programmable models. By doing this, you can accurately track the temperature of your home, and set your systems to turn off or run lower at specific times of the day when you’re not affected by the climate of your home.

Windows & insulation keep the right air in, and the wrong air out
If you are in a position to make an investment to save on energy in your home, start with the two culprits that contribute most to inefficiency: windows, and insulation. According to energy.gov, “heat gain and heat loss through windows is responsible for 25%-30% of residential heating and cooling energy use. Sometimes this issue can be helped by simple touch up work on your existing windows such as repairing caulking and weather stripping. If your windows are older though, you may want to spend the extra money to replace them with quality, high efficiency models. You can identify these by looking for Energy Star ratings while shopping.

Insulation is probably the quickest solution to greatly improving the efficiency of your home. The purpose of insulation is simple: it keeps the air you want inside the house, and the air you don’t want outside the house. In other words, it helps keep the hot air out during summer months, and the chilly New England weather out during the winter. There are various grades and qualities of insulation from the pink stuff you’ve probably seen in your attic, to spray foam material. Accordingly, it’s best to consult a professional for what product will offer the best solution for your home.

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