Energy Communications Council

Heating Oil News

Back to News

4 ways to cut winter energy bills

September 23, 2010

With heating prices on the rise, the U.S. Energy Information Administration predicts that home heating oil, natural gas, and electricity will cost 2% to 11% more this winter than last. Getting your home prepped for the season is crucial.

You're doubtless familiar with the basics, such as sealing leaky windows and turning your thermostat down at night. But if it's been a while since you've hit your local home center, you may be missing out on some recent product advances that can chop high heating bills more easily or effectively.

Check them out well before the first freeze.

Remote programmable thermostat

Typical cost: $200
Annual energy savings: $220
Pays for itself within: 1 year
Programmable thermostats are a no-brainer. They let you automatically bump the heat down at night and when you're out, thereby shaving 10% off your energy costs.

The latest wave of these products goes one step further: They link to the Internet so you can adjust the temperature remotely.

Say you're stuck late at work. Go online and tell the system to stay at 60 F for a few hours longer, thus saving even more.

The most advanced models, such as Honeywell's Prestige 7-Day Programmable (available from contractors starting at $300 installed), let you make adjustments via iPhone or iPad app (Honeywell's app hits the iTunes store in 2011). That's great, because the easier it is to control your energy use, the more likely you are to save money.

Storm windows that go inside, not out

Typical cost: $1,875*
Annual energy savings: $770
Pays for itself within: 3 year
If your windows are old and drafty, but you're not eager to spend $1,000 apiece to have a pro install energy-efficient vinyl-clad wood replacements, there's another alternative: interior storms.

"They're a better value," says Bruce Harley, technical director of Conservation Services Group in Westborough, Mass., and author of Cut Your Energy Bills Now.

These products, which typically have an aluminum frame that spring-loads to fit your window, generally cost the same as or less than exterior storms and are just as energy saving. (Both can reduce heat loss by 25% to 50%.) But they're much easier to put in and take out; no more teetering on a ladder or paying someone else to.

One example: Boomerang Energy Products' Energy Panels ($150 for a typical 60-by-28-inch window).

*Assumes 15 windows at $125 per window.

Thermal leak detector

Typical cost: $50
Annual energy savings: $220
Pays for itself within: 5 months
Wonder why your heating bills are high even though you've done everything you can think of to make your home airtight?

You could hire a pro to do a home energy audit, which will set you back $100 to $400. (Some utility companies offer free audits, but they may not be as comprehensive.) Or you could buy a thermal leak detector.

Current models, such as the Black & Decker Thermal Heat Detector, accurately pinpoint where energy seepage is happening. (Two common trouble spots: around outlets and light fixtures.)

"This is a good way to find places where the insulation may have settled," says Tom Simchak, a research associate at the Alliance to Save Energy.

Once you identify problem zones, you or a pro can seal them.

More efficient attic insulation

Typical cost: $4,500
Annual energy savings: $660
Pays for itself within: 5 years*
Forget the itchy pink stuff. Newer insulation materials are more energy-efficient, not to mention friendlier to your health and the environment.

They include spray foam, such as Icynene, and cellulose, such as GreenFiber, which is made from bits of recycled paper. Adding such insulation to your attic and using caulk or foam to seal cracks that let cold air in can save you up to 30% on energy costs, according to the U.S. Department of Energy. (Be sure not to skip the air-sealing step: Insulation alone won't cut it.)

You'll pay $3,000 to $6,000 for a pro to do the job ($1,000 to $2,000 to DIY if you're extremely handy). But if you complete it by Dec. 31, you'll qualify for a federal tax credit of 30% of the amount you spent, up to $1,500. That, plus the savings you'll reap for years to come, should take some of the sting out.

*Factors in a a $1,350 tax credit.

Click here for the full story from CNN Money

National Oilheat Research Alliance ECC is funded in part through the National Oilheat Research Alliance.