Home Tips: Lowering heating costs

February 9, 2012


Mike Roberson


mcp.com columnist


We all wish our home could cost us less. Our homes are usually our biggest investment and our greatest cost. Every home is different, but I find some very common elements in inefficient homes. Here are some Home Tips of the most common things I find in homes that you can do to lower cost, and improve efficiency in your home.


1: Lower your thermostat. Your father was right; a sweater is cheaper than the gas bill. Lowering your thermostat just one degree can save you 3 to 5% on your heating bill. If your gas bill is currently $150 a month, lowering your thermostat by three degrees equals up to $180 a year. $180 will buy you a great sweater. Programmable thermostats can help by lowering the temperature automatically when you leave for the day or at night. However, they do not work for all heating systems, and they really don’t work if you don’t program them.


2: Check the water temperature on your water heater. If it is above 125 degrees turn it down. Consider the energy cost of keeping 40-plus gallons of water at that temperature 24/7/365. If you are constantly running out of hot water, use water saving showerheads, use the washer on cold, or better yet (here’s a novel idea) just use less.


3: Add more insulation. Most homes have an attic and a crawl space or basement. For our climate here in Michigan, an insulation value of at least R-45 is recommended in attics. “R” value stands for the amount of resistance to heat loss. This value varies by type, depth and installation, but basically if you have less than 12 inches in depth in your attic, consider adding more. Basement or crawl space floor joists could use some insulation near your outside walls. It is very important that if you are not experienced in installing insulation, hire a pro. Make sure your attic access is as close to airtight as possible.


4: Change your furnace filter. Almost half the forced air systems I inspect are in need of immediate replacement. A dirty filter slows down the flow of air and makes your furnace work harder. Your filter should be changed based on its size and use. Most people have the smaller 1-inch thick filters. If this is your type, then I suggest a new one every 30 days while in use. Make sure of your size, then buy yourself a whole box of them and leave them by your furnace. You can’t afford not to.


5: Clean out behind your fridge. Refrigerators create heat and have fans and cooling fins to help dissipate that heat. Very commonly I find this area clogged with dust, hair and other debris. This can make your fridge warmer, causing it to work harder than should have to. Use a shop vac or a household vacuum to get rid of that. Don’t forget to clean that fridge or freezer in the basement or garage too. If you can’t remember the last time you cleaned it, you need to do this.


If you are not sure of what to do, hire a pro. They are worth their money in cost savings. Remember, you are the CEO of your house, and being cost effective is your job. It does not always mean you have to spend a bunch of money on the latest gadget. Have a Happy House! 


Mike Roberson has many years experience in the building trades industry. He is owner of Pioneering Consulting, which specializes in home inspections. Mike and his wife, Becky, live in Amber Township along with their five children. In this column, Home Tips, Mike will talk about what you can do to prepare your house for selling, what to look for when buying a house and just general tips in making your home safer and more energy efficient. 


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