ALLISON WARD | The Columbus Dispatch:
Three weeks from Christmas, Greater Columbus residents are most likely starting to get used to the chilling temperatures this time of year brings.
However, their wallets might not be.
The cost of heating a home with natural gas, the most common fuel in Ohio, this winter is expected to increase by 30% compared to last year, according to a report released in October by the Energy Information Administration. Propane and heating oil prices will go up 54% and 43%, respectively, while electricity is expected to see the smallest increase at 6%.
That equates to an increase of $267 this winter — from $551 to $818—– for the typical natural gas customer in the Midwest, the annual winter energy outlook reported.
Surging global demand for natural gas and other energy sources is to blame for much of the increase: Natural gas prices are at their highest levels since 2014.
Fortunately, there are a number of quick and easy steps homeowners can take during these colder months to keep their heating costs at bay, area experts said.
“There are two main points I coach people on,” said Chuck Nutter, owner of Nutter Handyman Services and the Upper Arlington shop Nutter Hardware. “Make sure the heat being produced in the home is being done in the most efficient way possible … once the heat is in the house, do what you can to keep the heat in and the cold out.”
If there are problems with either aspect, there’s a good chance a resident is paying too much on their heating bill, he said.
Here are some tips Nutter and other area handymen have to assess and correct a home’s energy efficiency:
Having your furnace inspected now could save headaches later in the season.
Practice routine furnace maintenance
One of the simplest ways to improve energy costs can often be one of the most overlooked, said Tracy Cohen of Superior Home Maintenance on the South Side. That’s checking the furnace air filters regularly.
“Change them all the time,” Cohen said. “Your furnace works a lot harder when the filters are clogged and dirty.”
Also, it’s a good idea to have a professional inspect the heating system every few years, especially if it’s an older model, not only for efficiency but also for safety.