Beating High Winter Heating Bills Starts Now

October 10, 2007 - Posted at 8:45 p.m. CDT

JONESBORO, AR -- Heating bills are predicted to be a record high this winter...with homeowners using oil expected to pay nearly $2,000 dollars in costs. But spending a couple of hundred dollars now can save you anywhere from 10-15% on your winter heating bill.

A surge in oil and natural gas prices could mean a 10% increase for the average U.S. household. The average household will pay around $1,000 in heating costs for the winter, that's up $100 from last year.

For those heating with oil, you're going to see a 28% increase...on an average about $1,800 this year.

But starting now can save you money this winter; a few simple changes will make a big difference.

Programmable thermostats, energy saving light bulbs, big gap filler and weather seal are all items that should be on your shopping list.

"If you are on a tight budget, a very good thing would be to put the switch plate covers in and what that does is stop any drafts and all you have to do is unscrew this light plate switches and put those in there," said Home Depot's Denise Davis.

And going electric can cut costs as well...Home Depot's newest remote control fireplace can heat up to 1,350 square feet.

"It's electric so you don't have to run it all of the time, you're not using your gas and it's a good piece of furniture," said Davis.

Davis believes beating high heating bills this winter is all about being ready now.

"The way our weather changes you never know. We're going to be hot one day and cold the next so...especially with the prices of energy going up, the fuel going up you want to cut those as soon as possible," said Davis.

Lifestyle can also play a role in reducing heating bills.  Open south-facing curtains during sunny days to benefit from free solar heat gain.  Also, set the thermostat a degree or two lower. For each degree the thermostat is lowered, there is an estimated 3-percent savings in heating fuel costs.

A thermostat setting of 65 to 68 degrees provides sufficient heat for normal daytime activity, although children and the elderly may require higher temperatures. Because less heat is needed when sleeping, a thermostat setting of 60 degrees is recommended for nighttime hours.

Remember to turn down heat in unused rooms. During winter vacations or long periods away from home, reduce the thermostat setting to 50 degrees.

Have your furnace serviced by a reputable specialist before the heating season, which could reduce your fuel bill as much as 10 percent. If the furnace is fired by oil or gas, make sure the furnace and flue outlets are cleaned, filters are cleaned or changed and the motor is in working order. Check furnace filters every two months during the heating season.