With New Yorkers spending 60 percent of their energy usage on heat alone, staying warm this winter can take a huge chunk out of your family’s budget. Thankfully, even if you are renting, there are some easy ways to reduce your heat bill and cut back on the amount of energy used in your home. Here are some cost-efficient ways to keep yourself warmer for less during the colder months.
Get Rid of Drafts
Cracks and gaps along windows, doors and plumbing can lead to drafts, causing your heat to literally fly right out the window. To cut back on heating costs this winter, use weatherstripping around windows to seal up any leaks and remove any window air conditioners that may still be in place. For large, drafty windows, consider purchasing a plastic window kit (approximately $20). The thin sheet of plastic, once sealed over your window with a hair dryer, will cut back on heat loss and can easily be removed once spring comes along.
Adding insulation around homes can be an effective way for homeowners to reduce their heating bill by up to 30 percent, according to the Department of Energy. In addition to the attic, adding insulation in crawl spaces, ceilings and basement walls can help keep you warmer and lower you heating bills for years to come.
Reduce Hot Water Usage
When we think of heating, it is easy to forget the energy-guzzling hot water heater. To cut back on energy bills this winter, consider ways to take shorter showers or otherwise reduce your hot water usage around the home. To reduce costs even more, invest in a hot water heater blanket. At around $20, it is a low-cost way to save on energy costs year round.
Use Zone Heating
Homeowner and renters alike can reduce their heat bill by using space heaters to provide zone heating. Turning your thermostat down low, shutting doors to block heat loss and heating only the area you are in can significantly reduce your heating bill. Safety, however, must come first. Only use space heaters in occupied rooms and be sure to follow the manufacturer’s safety guidelines to prevent a fire.
Don’t Fiddle with the Thermostat
Although it is tempting to crank up the heat as the wind blows outside, reach for a blanket or sweater instead. Constantly changing temperature in your home makes your heater work harder and will ultimately cost you more money. To save more, consider a programmable thermostat that will allow you to reduce the temperatures while you are away during the day and provide warmer temperatures at night. But don’t turn it down too low. The cooler your house is while you are away, the harder your heater will have to work to catch up, which can ultimately cost you more money.
Low-income New Yorkers who have a small child at home, are over age 60 or are permanently disabled can apply for relief from the high cost of New York heating bills. The Home Energy Assistance Program (HEAP) offers financial assistance, paid directly to the utility company, to reduce your overall heating costs during the winter. In addition, HEAP also offers a subsidy program for low-income New Yorkers and seniors to repair or replace their main heating source, helping your home run more efficiently. New Yorkers can learn more about HEAP at www.mybenefits.ny.gov or by calling the HEAP hotline at 1-800-342-3009.
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Tamar Auber is a freelance writer whose work can be found on Examiner.com.