If your family is like ours, you may have noticed that your home energy bills have soared during this unusually hot summer. Cooler weather, however, is not likely to bring much needed financial relief as the winter months lay ahead. The reason: supply and demand. “The demand for energy-related commodities, including natural gas, has largely returned at a faster rate than production,” says Chris Higginbotham, a spokesman for the U.S. Energy Information Administration. “That has contributed to lower inventories, which has contributed to higher prices.”
In 2021, “Cold snaps in several parts of the United States brought an increase in demand that contributed to stocks going below average again,” Higginbotham says. “It’s a really complex energy environment right now.”
And the complexity is reaching new heights leading into 2023. As the specter of global warming looms and the ongoing conflict in Ukraine creates even more uncertainty in the energy markets, there is one thing we can be absolutely sure of – the cost to heat our homes will increasingly be a financial burden on the family budget.
So now is the time to be proactive and take steps to keep comfortable without breaking the bank.
Getting your heating system serviced by a professional is the best place to start. “It’s important to check and maintain your energy equipment,” says Allan Drury, a spokesman for Con Edison, the primary energy provider for New York City. And they know a thing or two about chilly winters.
5 Tips For Saving Money This Winter On Home Heating Bills:
While it takes a professional to inspect your heating system, these 5 tips for keeping energy costs low can be performed by non-pros like us.
1: Seal Air Leaks
“Homeowners tend to feel drafts around windows and doors, though the biggest air leaks are typically in attics and basements,” says John Galeotafiore, who oversees Consumer Report’s testing of home products. “If you have an easily accessible attic, you can check for gaps in the areas where leaks are likely to occur—where the walls meet the attic floor, the access hatch, and around plumbing and electrical fixtures. Small gaps can be sealed with caulking or spray foam.”
In the basement, look at where the foundation meets the framing of the house and where wiring conduits and plumbing enter through the foundation. To stop your losses around windows and doors, you can plug those holes with a combination of weather stripping, caulk, or expandable foam.
Professionals perform a blower door test to identify air leaks. But you can try a low-tech version by turning on all of your home’s exhaust fans and holding an incense stick near windows, doors, and electrical outlets. If the smoke blows sideways, you have a leak that needs plugging.
2: Set Your Thermostat
If you haven’t upgraded to a programmable thermostat or a smart thermostat, this might be the winter to do so; see the Consumer Reports thermostat ratings for the best models on the market. The device will automatically lower the heat when you’re asleep or away from home. That can save you at least $50 a year or more on your energy costs, according to Energy Star, meaning that the thermostat could pay for itself in a few years, depending on which model you choose.
For optimal efficiency, set the temperature to 68° F or lower when you’re home and awake, and set it back to 60° F all other times, as recommended by the Department of Energy. And if you can tolerate colder temperatures, try dialing down your daytime temperature because you’ll save money on every degree you set your thermostat back.
3: Check the Filters
This applies to homes with forced-air heating. For optimal efficiency, you need to replace the filter every few months.
First, turn off the furnace. Then remove the existing furnace filter, located just inside the furnace or return air vent. Note the furnace filter size printed on the cardboard frame. Purchase a replacement filter from a home center, hardware store, or online retailer. In addition to ensuring optimal heating efficiency, new filters will help trap dust, pollen, smoke, and other airborne particulates.
Slide the new filter into place; check for the markings that tell you which side of the filter should face the furnace. Keep a record of the date (or set a reminder on your phone or calendar) so that you’ll know when it’s time to change the furnace filter again. Replace any cover that goes over the filter.
This is also a good time to make sure the warm-air registers throughout your home aren’t blocked by furniture, because that will make the system run less efficiently, driving up your utility bills.
These steps can combine to offset at least some of the price increase in home heating fuel. And there are a few behavioral changes you can make, too, for example, opening curtains on any south-facing windows during the day to allow the sunlight to warm your home, and keeping your fireplace damper closed unless a fire is burning.
4: Level Out Your Payments
Most utility and oil/ propane delivery companies offer the option to level out your payments, which means averaging your expenses over the course of a year. That way you aren’t getting a super high electric bill in the summer when the air conditioning is cranking or getting surprised by a huge oil delivery in the middle of winter.
If you are having problems paying your utility bills, most utilities will work with you to make payments less painful. “If you get in trouble with your bill, call us,” Drury of Con Edison says. “We have programs that can help you spread the payments out.” Check with your utility provider. They likely have similar programs.
5: Snuggle Up Under A Weighted Blanket
Keeping the thermostat turned down a few degrees when the house is empty during the day is a sure way to keep heating expenses under control. And keeping the temperature a little cooler when everyone is home will extend those savings longer into the night.
Weighted blankets, like the Magic Weighted Blanket, are designed specifically to provide a cozy and calming experience that only gets better when the thermostat is kept a little lower. Not only will this help keep energy costs more manageable, you will be enjoying the benefits of deep pressure stimulation, which has been shown to stimulate the production of a mood-boosting hormone (serotonin), reduce the stress hormone (cortisol), and increase levels of melatonin, the hormone that helps you sleep.
And just because you are saving money by better managing your energy costs doesn’t mean you can’t stay warm and snuggly in luxurious comfort. Our super-soft chenille fabric will have you feeling pampered in an opulent hug, so you won’t even mind the thermostat being turned down a few degrees.
Wrapping It Up – While Getting Wrapped Up In A Luxurious Hug
With the economic uncertainties caused by inflation, global warming, and the impending winter energy demands, we know how important it is for families to budget and do a little more with a little less. But we also know that self-care and maintaining a restful sleep routine is critical. So we hope these tips help keep your family budget manageable this winter and that our Magic Weighted Blanket keeps the whole family wrapped up in cozy and calming comfort.