Keeping warm air inside and the cold air out can be relatively inexpensive, according to Barbara Buffaloe, a former University of Missouri Extension housing specialist.
In many homes, a lot of heat escapes through the roof, cracks in walls, and gaps around windows, doors and pipes. Homeowners can ease the shock of high utility costs by reclaiming some of that lost heat.
Twelve inches of attic insulation is recommended in Missouri, Buffaloe said. Exposed air ducts in the attic allow heat to dissipate even before it enters the house, making the furnace work harder, so wrap or cover these ducts with insulation.
“Depending on the size of your house, for a couple hundred dollars you can probably save 10 to 15 percent on your winter heating bill,” she said.
Weatherstrip your doors and apply caulk around pipes. A few tubes of caulk, which cost $3 or $4 each, could save you several hundred dollars, Buffaloe said.
Lifestyle can also play a role in reducing heating bills. Open south-facing curtains during sunny days to benefit from free solar heat, Buffaloe said. Set the thermostat a degree or two lower. For each degree you lower the thermostat, you can save an estimated 3 percent in heating fuel costs.
A thermostat setting of 65 to 68 degrees provides enough heat for normal daytime activity, although children and the elderly may need higher temperatures. Because people need less heat when sleeping, Buffaloe recommends a thermostat setting of 60 degrees for nighttime hours.
Have a reputable specialist service your furnace before the heating season. This could reduce your fuel bill as much as 10 percent. If the furnace is fired by oil or gas, make sure the furnace, flue outlets and filters are cleaned or changed and the motor is in working order. Check furnace filters every two months during the heating season.
For more information on saving energy in your home, view the Energy Management publications or contact your local MU Extension office.