Staying warm indoors when the weather is cold is a top priority for homeowners. But with oil prices soaring, remaining comfortable this winter and early spring comes with quite a cost -- and figures may continue to spiral skyward. The U.S. Energy Information Administration forecasts that the average home oil-heating bill will climb by 22 percent over last year's costs. These increases can put a strain on already tight budgets nationwide.
So what can you do now to keep your home heating bills down and still remain warm? Here are some last-minute recommendations from home-heating experts that should help homeowners avoid a heating bill crunch.
1. Do your own energy assessment. Visit the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's ENERGY STAR Home Advisor Web site (www.energystar.gov/homeadvisor) to get specific recommendations on how to make your home more energy efficient.
2. Get a professional energy audit. Ask your utility company or a state/local energy office to schedule a home energy audit. Professionals will perform a room-by-room analysis of your energy use and identify needed improvements that will save energy.
3. Evaluate alternative energy appliances. As technology continues to evolve and greater interest is placed on energy-efficient and renewable energy appliances, there are many more choices for homeowners than just a few years ago.
Homeowners all over the country are finding ways to free themselves from spiraling energy costs. One option now available is the next generation of high-efficiency wood furnaces that combine the convenience of central heating with the cost savings of using wood for fuel.
These furnaces can be used in lieu of standard heating systems featuring gas or oil during the heating months, or as an add-on when homeowners prefer to use other heating sources. This reduced need for oil, propane and natural gas means a significant reduction in monthly heating bills.
By taking easy measures to conserve energy, and exploring the new generation of heating alternatives you can save money on utility bills in the long run.