In the last year, about 20% of Americans struggled to pay their energy bill in full at least once, according to a study by Help Advisor. At the same time, 18% kept their house at a temperature that was either unhealthy or unsafe.
Even more people went without necessities to make sure they could afford their utilities. More than 28% skipped a basic expense such as food or medicine to pay an energy bill in the last 12 months, according to the study.
How to keep costs low
There are a few things people can do to help keep heating costs low this winter.
One is to check your windows for any leaks, something you can do on your own or with the help of a home energy audit, where a professional will come and assess the energy efficiency of your home and make suggestions for updates.
“Windows do represent a really significant portion of that energy bill,” said Steve Hoffins, vice president of marketing U.S. windows at Cornerstone Building Brands. “Depending on the climate and the size of the house and everything else, it could be 15% to 20% of your heat that actually goes out through the windows.”
Top five tips to cut costs and winterize your home
Windows – Check for leaks around the edges where the window is hinged, slides or meets another unit. Clean the tracks of any debris that might be interfering with seals. Lock windows once winter sets in and apply a quality exterior caulk to seal any leaks.
Doors – Feel around the perimeter of the door for any cooler air coming in. Check the weatherstripping around the door, including the door sweep attached to the bottom. Apply exterior-grade caulking to seal gaps if necessary.
Attics, Basements and Crawlspaces – Leaky ductwork is a primary escape route for warm air, so inspect all visible ductwork openings that can be easily accessed. Check for any holes that go through the main floor to the basement or attic, for small openings in the ductwork, electrical or plumbing connection. Caulk or foam around them or use foil tape or mastic to seal any leaks.
Pipes – Disconnect, drain and store any garden hoses as the weather turns cold. Any exposed water pipes in uninsulated spaces such as in a crawlspace, attic, or exterior wall should be protected with foam insulating sleeves. Burst pipes from freezing can cause some of the most expensive repairs in the home.
HVAC – Change air filters on a regular basis. Operate the system on the "auto" fan setting on the thermostat. Ensure proper airflow by inspecting ducts for dust buildup and obstructions. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, HVAC preventative maintenance can help save homeowners up to 25-percent in energy cost.
Illustration: Honeywell thermostat.
Author Flickr user midnightcomm