If you live in an area with long winters, the dilemma of choosing between paying exorbitantly to heat your home or staying cold because you can’t afford to up the thermostat all day may be all too familiar to you. Whether you use natural gas, oil, propane or electricity, you know there are a variety of ways to heat your home. If you live in an old home with drafts and cracks, or a home with poor insulation, it may even seem like all that expensive heat goes right out the window.
Making Traditional Heating Methods Cheaper
As a first line of defense against the cold, make sure your home is weatherized. Caulk cracks, chips and holes in the home foundation, walls and doorways. Use storm windows to insulate your windows, or consider removing and replacing old, ill-fitting windows with energy-efficient, double-paned ones. The small costs of weatherproofing pay for themselves with money saved on home heating.
While you’re tackling home repair, take a minute to make sure your radiators or heating vents aren’t blocked by furniture. Such blockages lengthen the time it takes to heat your home, reducing energy efficiency.
No matter what home heating method you use, you can save up to 10 percent on heating bills if you just dial it down when you are not home. Programmable thermostats allow you to auto-set the heat to come on around your commute time so you come home to a warm house, but don’t waste energy — and money — heating an empty home.
If you’re tired of paying hundreds of dollars per month in energy costs, investigate some alternative home heating methods that cost less over time.
Space heaters: One common way of keeping down heating costs is to use electric space heaters in only the rooms you are occupying. These units heat one to two rooms adequately, so that you feel warm. When you leave, turn off and unplug the unit for safety. You’re only paying the electrical operating costs of the space heater, which vary by unit. At present, the Environmental Protection Agency does not label electric space heaters as Energy Star, and purportedly has no plans to do this.
Pellet Stoves and Wood Stoves: To heat a home, pellet stoves and wood stoves work quite well. Pellet stoves use compressed pellets made from switchgrass and other renewable crops, while wood stoves burn wood. Pellet stoves are greener — less air pollution — both both units offer comparable home heating efficiency and savings of approximately 35% to 50% off traditional home heating costs. Expect to spend around $2,000 on a stove and $600 to $700 for pellets or wood for the course of one winter.
Solar Panels: These require an initial investment that can cost up to $25,000 for a home — anywhere from $30 to $80 per square foot of solar panel — but do allow you to capitalize on natural heat for free. What’s more, programs exist that allow you to sell back extra solar energy to the grid, helping recoup some of those initial costs. If you have an expensive home heating method, solar power may be your right answer. Be aware that it may take up to a dozen years to recoup that investment in infrastructure.
If you rent, you may not be able to go solar, but don’t let that stop you from heating your home in other ways.
Danielle, who blogs on behalf of Sears and other prestigious brands, enjoys music festivals and clean, green living. Read her work at eatbreatheblog.com.