McLEAN, Va. (12/11/07)--Unless you have an extra $1,000 lying around, you might want to read this. The $1,000 is almost how much the average U.S. winter heating bill is expected to be for October 2007 through March 2008, according to the Energy Department (USA Today
Nov. 30). Of course the amount of your bill depends on where you live. If you live in the Northeast and use heating oil, your bill may be as high as $1,900; if you live out West and use natural gas, your bill may only be $600. Regardless of the amount, you might reduce your energy expenses by taking advantage of an energy audit--either hiring a professional energy auditor or performing one yourself. If you decide to go it alone, the Energy Department suggests keeping a checklist of areas you’ve inspected and listing problems that you’ve found. Here’s what you should check:
* Lighting. Try to maximize the use of daylight. Task lights illuminate only the area you need to light. Shut off lights you’re not using and install motion detectors in your garage and other areas where you might forget to turn lights off. Consider switching to compact fluorescent bulbs--they’re more efficient and longer lasting than incandescent bulbs. It’s estimated that a compact fluorescent bulb that makes as much light as a 100-watt incandescent bulb would save about $63 during the bulb’s 4.5-year lifetime--assuming the bulb is on six hours a day. * Insulation. Inspect insulation in the attic, walls, and basement. Make sure that insulation isn’t blocking the attic vents and that the water heater, hot water pipes, and furnace ducts are insulated. * Heating and cooling equipment. Inspect equipment annually or as often as the manufacturer recommends. Check filters and replace as needed--most likely every month or two. Have professionals clean equipment annually. If your furnace is older than 15 years, consider replacing it with one that’s more energy-efficient. Insulate ducts or pipes that travel through spaces that aren’t heated.
For more information, read “Start an Energy Diet: Save Money Around Home” in Home & Family Finance Resource Center.