3 energy-efficient steps to lowering your heating bill

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Although some efficient home improvements keep electricity bills down during the summer, reducing the winter heating bill means additional upgrades before temperatures drop. Whether it involves a few energy projects before winter or a complete overhaul of the home, homeowners will need to take steps towards efficiency to avoid exorbitant costs during the frigid season.

1. Hire a home energy auditor

Lowering the heating bill starts with locating the energy loss areas in your home. A fast way to discover them is with a home energy audit. Also known as a home energy assessment, this walk-through is performed by an auditor who finds the inefficient areas and recommends ways to recoup energy and money. Possible findings from the auditor might include:

  • Leaks
  • Degraded insulation
  • Poor ventilation
  • Ductwork problems

From this report it will be easy to determine which areas of your home need improvements. Home energy audit costs average about $368 nationally.

2. Fix the leaks

Once you find the inefficient areas, it’s time to fix them. A common room with high energy loss is the attic. Poor insulation causes cold air from the roof to seep in, which kicks the heater on more often. So homeowners need to install new insulation to prevent cold air from coming in. There are four types of insulation to choose from: batt, loose fill, rigid panel and poured. They vary in price and efficiency, but they all will cut down the heating bill.

Other areas that often leak air are windows and doors. Many older homes do not have double-pane windows, which are more effective and efficient because they are insulated. Homeowners should hire window installers to put these in, as they also help block the sun’s rays in the summer. It’s also important to have good weather-stripping. Weather-stripping is installed around the interior of a door or window to prevent leaking. A weather-stripping contractor will know what kind of stripping is needed and can install it.

3. Repair the HVAC system

The effective operation of an HVAC system is crucial to your heating bill total. Regular maintenance of the system ensures it works properly each winter. Nationally furnace repair and maintenance costs about $258, though it varies depending on the type of maintenance and where the professional works. For example, heating and cooling professionals in Denver charge about $367 for their services while HVAC contractors in Philadelphia quote around $235 for the work they do. Their costs will include working on the furnace, ductwork and ventilation, so be prepared to have furniture moved around and store any fragile decorations.

Photo courtesy of Design Works, Inc. in Spokane, WA (via DesignMine)