Heating and cooling account for 56% of home energy use, according to the U.S. Department of Energy.
Nationwide, the average annual heating bill for households using oil was $2,298, compared with $724 spent by gas users and $957 spent by electricity users.
And those lucky enough to be in a northern climate average even higher.
That’s a good chunk of change, and in the case of heating oil, could eclipse even the annual property taxes on a home.
If you fall in to that heating oil user category and plan on staying put for a while, you may want to consider a conversion. It is not cheap, but it won’t take long to make your money back, given the savings. And if you do sell your home, you’ll probably recoup most of that initial cost.
Outside of a dramatic, expensive change like that, what are some cheaper/easier changes one can make?
1. Use (& Program) a Smart Programmable Thermostat
If you are setting your temperature and leaving it the same throughout the day, your money is literally floating away in to the atmosphere. You do not need the same temperature when you are away for work or sleeping, as you do during your waking home hours.
And if you are periodically changing the temperature throughout the day and do it habitually multiple times every single day, you are of a stronger mind than I.
The Nest Programmable Thermostat (with wifi) is the top selling, highest rated, and most feature-rich wifi enabled programmable thermostat out there. Versus a non-programmable thermostat, it could save you upwards of $180 per year. These thermostats provide a huge convenience factor in that you don’t have to mess with the thermostat every time you go to bed, wake up, go to work, or get back from work. And you can monitor and change temperature in your home if you are traveling.
Installing and programming my thermostat has saved me about 20% on my heating and cooling costs. According to Energy Star, installing and correctly using an Energy Star programmable digital thermostat can cut your heating and cooling costs by $180 per year. If you purchase a $200 device, you will earn yourself a return on investment towards the beginning of your 2nd year, and then it’s pure savings for as long as it works.
Last fall, I covered how to program your thermostat effectively to achieve these gains in the winter. You’ll have to re-program it with the change from heat to AC.
2. Get a Low-Flow Showerhead and Aerators for your Kitchen and Bathroom Faucets
The next best way to save on heating is not the most intuitive because most people think of air when they think of heating and cooling costs.
As I covered yesterday in my saving water post, if you cut down on your hot water usage (I use this showerhead), you also cut down your heating bill. It’s a 2-for-1 special! And it’s a low cost investment, with great ROI.
3. Turn Down the Temperature on your Water Heater
This reminder tip is especially relevant during the hot summer months. You do not need scalding hot water for a shower. Turn that water temperature on your water heater down. And when you go on vacation, turn it all the way down! No sense in keeping the tea kettle steeping when you are not in the home, so why would you do it with your hot water heater?
4. Switch from Central AC to a Fan or Room AC
Just covered this in the post on cutting electricity use and previously on the cost of a fan vs. an air conditioner, so I won’t again. But it would have a huge impact.
5. Seal your Air Ducts
Sealing your air ducts can lower your heating and cooling expenses by 20% if done properly, in addition to adding to the overall air quality of your dwelling. You can use metal tape to seal off joints where your cuts meet. Check out the Energy Star guide to properly sealing your ducts.
6. Add Attic Insulation & Seal Leaks to the Outdoors
This can also lower your HVAC expenses by another 20%. And if you have a pre 90’s era home and nobody has done this, it needs to be done ASAP.
A few years ago, I added cellulose insulation to my attic, by renting an insulation blowing machine from Home Depot (free with 24 bags of purchased insulation). I was able to add a foot of insulation to my entire attic (which previously had very little) for about $350. Not cheap, but I have since recouped my costs with each passing winter. Here is a DIY Guide to Sealing Air Leaks and Adding Attic Insulation.
Heating & Cooling Savings Discussion:
- Have you switched from heating oil to an alternative? How much money have you saved?
- What techniques have you used, and how much have you saved?