With lower temperatures come higher heating costs. And with Americans already spending more than $160 billion a year to heat, cool and light their homes, cost-consciousness is more important than ever.
According to recent research from the Propane Education & Research Council (PERC), 57 percent of homeowners who recently remodeled or purchased a new custom-built home saw increased household energy costs, and virtually all respondents anticipated costs would continue to rise.
That’s why PERC and other energy experts are urging homeowners to scrutinize their heating and energy choices to keep their homes comfortable and their wallets fuller.
“Americans are not powerless when it comes to their energy choices,” said Scott Morgan, host of HGTV’s “Dream Builders” show. “Homeowners can see a big difference by making a few small changes in the home, developing an energy plan and taking advantage of new tax credits. And families building new homes have a huge opportunity to make smart energy choices that will pay off over the long term.”
As such, PERC is encouraging homeowners to save on energy costs by creating a three-step energy plan:
* Explore fuel payment plan options to spread your projected annual costs over many months, balancing the costs of seasonally higher bills.
* If you use a fuel that requires delivery, such as propane, set up a regular delivery schedule with your retailer. Consider filling your tank before the start of the heating season rather than waiting until it is empty.
* The federal government is offering a tax credit of up to $500 for qualifying energy-saving improvements made during the 2006 and 2007 calendar years. Credits are available for many home improvements including high-efficiency heating and cooling equipment such as propane water heaters and furnaces. For more information visit www.energytaxincentives.org.
And with the average American home losing up to 50 percent of its energy through inadequate insulation and inefficient appliances, according to experts like HGTV’s Morgan, PERC is offering these easy tips to help consumers lower their energy bills:
* Inspect and tune-up your residential heating system regularly. A heating system that runs well is more efficient and saves money.
* Change your furnace filter regularly. Clean filters will increase efficiency.
* Consider switching to a propane water heater. Propane water heaters can save up to one third as compared to electricity, and they heat more than twice as much water in an hour as a comparable electric model.
* Turn down your water heater to 115 degrees Fahrenheit. You could save more than 10 percent on your water heating bill.
* Wrap your water heater in an insulating blanket.
* Increase your water heater’s efficiency by draining it every six months to remove mineral deposits and sediment.
* Vacuum dust off refrigerator coils every three months. It takes less energy to cool that way. Check the gaskets around the door and make sure it shuts tight.
* Install flow-restricting showerheads. You can reduce hot water usage by up to 50 percent without affecting shower pressure.
* Run washing machines, clothes dryers, and dishwashers with a full load.
For additional energy savings tips from PERC, visit www.usepropane.com.