Unfortunately, there’s a good chance that it will cost more to keep the home warm this year. Based on the projected forecast and the current prices of different fuels, higher heating expenditures this winter are expected.
According to an article by the U.S. Energy Information Administration (available at http://www.eia.gov/todayinenergy/detail.cfm?id=13311), changes in energy prices will drive up the cost of heating for nearly everyone throughout the United States. Luckily, the forecast for the winter months appears to be similar to last year, so that helps. If a colder winter was expected everywhere, the jump in fuel costs would seem much worse. Instead, average temperature will likely be about the same, with slighter colder temperatures anticipated for the Northeast and slightly warmer for the West.
These price increases highlight the importance of having a high efficiency heating system. Heating (and cooling) a home takes nearly half the energy used within a home. This can be costly, so it’s very important to keep the system running smoothly and up-to-date. Simple things, like changing the air filter regularly and having yearly tune-ups, can make a huge difference in how the system runs. The filter should be changed at least every three months, but it’s good to check it every month just in case. During months that the system is used more, the filter could be dirty in a short time. The tune-up can help catch problems before they start. Also, see if you need new sealing or insulation on the ducts. This fix alone can result in a 20% increase in efficiency, or more.
Furnace and Other Heater Replacement
If you’re having problems with your current heating system, it may be time to look into replacing it. Most new models are much more energy efficient and can easily save you hundreds of dollars throughout the year. It’s a good idea to look over all your options before getting a new system, though. If the problem is a duct leak, then replacing your heater isn’t going to help, so look into everything, even the simple fixes before replacing the unit.
Another thing that can save money throughout the year is a programmable thermostat. These are especially convenient for people who are away from home for set periods of time each day or week. In the winter, the temperature can be set lower while no one is home, and then it will automatically turn on and start warming before everyone returns. There’s no waste of keeping it warm while no one is there, or trying to heat it quickly when people get home.
About one-half of U.S. households use natural gas, and while this is one of the most affordable forms of fuel, it is still expected to cost about 13% more than last year. Most people will be spending over $650 just to keep their homes warm. With prices like this it’s important to remember a more efficient heater means lower energy costs.