Most of us are starting to feel the economic pinch these days in one way or another. Increased gas and food prices, a loss of jobs and a decrease value in our personal investments have us all holding our collective breath. Will things get worse or have we seen the worst of it?
In my opinion, the worst is yet to come. And with a fast approaching winter season, we have to start thinking about home heating oil prices, which are extremely high and volatile. How can we minimize it's use yet maximize it's usage? Here are a few green strategies that you can implement to keep from getting in the red this winter.
1. Insulation. One of the simplest ways to keep your home warm is to ensure your attic is property insulated. Attic insulation accounts for most of your homes heat loss as hot air rises. Visit the U.S. Dept of Energy website to learn more about installation, R-values and insulation choices. Make sure you look for that Energy Star label too.
2. Windows. The best windows are double or triple paned, Energy Star rated and have a Low-E coating (which keeps UV rays and heat from passing through either way). If you don't have these windows and replacing them is cost prohibitive, I recommend that you buy some weather stripping and get busy. If your windows don't have storm windows, consider adding them as a cheaper alternative. Another option is by adding window treatments, blinds or draperies that help keep out the cold. One brand specifically designed for this purpose is Eclipse Curtains. They range in price from $12 to $40 per panel, depending on style and fabrication, making them an affordable choice for everyone. They are sold in national retailers, including JC Penney, Bed Bath & Beyond, Sears, Wal-Mart, Kmart, and Lowe’s.
3. Doors. If you don't have an Energy Star rated doors, consider replacement or adding an Energy Star rated screen door to your front or rear entrance.
4. Furnace/Boiler Maintenance. Now is the time to schedule maintenance to your furnace. Ensuring that it functions to the best of its ability ables you to utilize your fuel to the best of its ability.
5. Programmable Thermostat. Most people have taken advantage of this technology by now. For anywhere from $25-$75 dollars, you can replace your old thermostats with ones that can be set lower at night or when you are at work.
6. Ban Wood Burning Fires. Contrary to popular belief, most wood burning fireplaces suck all the hot air right out of your house and up your chimney. All you are left with is cold air and carbon monoxide, dioxide and sulfur dioxide particulate left to breathe. Convert to gas, or only burn one for a special occasion.
7. Set a contract with your oil company. You have to be careful with this one but do your homework to see what the going rate is. After oil has recently dropped back under $100 (it's $105 and climbing on Sept 22nd), experts say that the bottom was hit last week and are going long. Maybe you should too. I did it last year and it worked out great.
8. Reduce consumption. Try setting your thermostat to 1-2 degree less than your desired setting. And pull out your afghan and your old grandma sweater.
9. Convert to gas. This is not a cure all as natural gas prices have also risen, however, gas is still a little cheaper and it certainly burns cleaner. My recommendation is to convert ONLY IF your oil burner is within 3 years of its death. A reputable heating oil company can help you make this determination. ( I would ask several.)I would also conduct a cost-benefit and break even analysis and factor in how long you plan to live in the home.
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