For the bulk of the year, energy costs are not a big concern to many and instead most calls relate to comfort, safety or health issues. We are now starting to get to an interesting time of year of when energy costs actually become more of a concern for many. The reason; good ole man winter & the costs to keep him at bay. Needless to say let the marketing & confusion begin…
With this in mind, here are two quick items to keep in mind;
- An Audit / Assessment / Survey won’t save you a cent. Nope, not one bloody red cent unless you do something very important – you have to follow the valid recommendations given.
- Just because your costs go down, does not mean that your house is actually more efficient or that the results seen by your neighbor mean you will see the same if you copy them…
I know you are probably asking yourself; how can this be true, and for the efficiency portion, why does that matter as all we want to do is reduce costs??? Well let’s look at the only three ways one can reduce costs.
For my friends in the southern climates, the same information applies to the summer months when one can see their electric bills jump into the hundreds. We decided to focus primarily on the Heating aspect as there really is no comparison to a $300 electric bill for cooling (Yep still have a few sweat stained T-Shirts from Phoenix) when many are paying $700 to a $1000 a month for heating. As mentioned though, the information still applies & hey we already did an article specifically addressing “keeping your cool.”
Change to a Cheaper Fuel Source (or a different plan):
One of the quickest ways to save money (though it comes at a cost for new equipment) is switching to a cheaper fuel source. For example switching (or installing a conversion kit) from an oil furnace to gas fired can save many homeowner s a ton as the price difference to deliver the same heat can be a quarter or more of what you might be paying. Ah, but what happens if the price of Natural Gas or maybe Propane climbs again?
One other caveat with this example is monthly service charges – if all you change is the furnace are you losing those savings to monthly charges during the rest of the year – that is one reason why many look at changing multiple items like the water heater, dryer, stove, etc… to more efficient models using the same fuel source.
If you happen to live in an area where you have to use Propane, there are a few other tricks to keeping costs low; consider buying or using a larger tank which can lead to a quantity discount (most start around 200 gallons per fill). The next is pre-purchase &/or long-term agreements which can lock in a lower rate though if you purchase more than you can use during that time you can lose money.
One of the other most popular means especially when it comes to electricity is to switch to a “Time of Use” plan. In most cases the cost for electricity is highest during the day & drops significantly during the evening & weekend hours when the most heat is called for. With a few other tweaks to your schedule (like running the dishwasher at night) you can save not only now but year round.
Use Less through Conservation:
I know this may sound like a broken record sometime, but when you save a nickel here, a quarter there, & pretty soon you will start seeing some pretty good savings. Of course in many cases you actually have to track your usage to see them. For tips on this we recommend starting with our piece on 25 Conservation Tips & to track your usage our Free Spreadsheet.
Improve & Maintain the Efficiency of a System &/or the Components
When most people think of this it is in relation to buying a new furnace or even a refrigerator, but there are a few overlooked items that also will help / help you realize all the gains
- When replacing a furnace, you need to also consider the ducts – it doesn’t help if the furnace is producing heat more efficiently if it still isn’t getting where it is needed or is trying to heat the outdoors.
- Just like your car needs a tune-up & oil change to continue running properly, so must one maintain their house & equipment located in it. (Monthly Maintenance Checklists & Top 5 of 5: Getting ready for ole man winter)
- Installing more insulation is always a big selling point for many as they liken it to adding a blanket to your bed when you are sleeping. Just remember though, it must be installed properly or that blanket is equal to one with large holes in it – it might keep you warmer in a few areas, but in others… (Attic Baffles – sealing the leaks – preventing ice dams)
- Don’t just believe the hype, do some research