COLUMBUS, Ohio -- Saving money on winter heating costs is always desirable, but may especially be important this season as homeowners continue to struggle through an economic recession.
Whether one owns a home in metro Columbus or maintains a farm in rural Ohio, finding ways to save a few dollars while keeping your family warm may be a good investment, and there are a few things one can do to that end.
"It's always good to save money, so finding ways to save on energy costs to heat a home or farm building is important. Whether you own a home in the middle of town or a farmhouse in the country, there are no differences to saving on heating costs," said Randall Reeder, an Ohio State University Extension agricultural engineer and energy specialist. "Bottom line is if you can find ways that will save energy at a reasonably small investment, then that's going to translate into savings in the long run."
Reeder, who also holds an Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center appointment, offers the following energy-saving tips:
• Insulate your home. "A home should be well-insulated. It's going to pay back year after year," said Reeder. Still, a third of the houses in the United States are inadequately insulated and about 10 percent have no insulation at all, said Reeder. In insulated houses, Reeder cautioned that homeowners need to be aware of insulation gaps. "If you have 95 percent of the ceiling and walls well-insulated, but somehow an area got missed, you might be losing half of your heat through that small area."
• Be mindful of air leakage, especially around doors and windows. "If it's windy and you feel air coming through the window, then you are losing a lot of heat," said Reeder. "The lowest cost way to remedy this is to buy plastic sheeting that you can cover the windows with, and insulation tape to stop leakage gaps." Reeder said that the plastic is also useful in farm buildings and work sheds to prevent air leakage around places such as garage doors that aren't used in winter.
• Double or triple pane your windows, but only if it's economical. "Do some calculations and make sure that the investment will pay back," said Reeder. "It won't be worth it to spend $10,000 to upgrade your windows if the improvement will only save $250 a year in heating bills."
• Turn down the thermostat to about 55 degrees when you are away from the house for the day. "Also turn it down before you go to bed," said Reeder. "An extra blanket or two can keep you comfortable."
• Only heat the parts of the house or work shed that you regularly use to your comfort zone. "If you can close off rooms, turn down the whole-house thermostat to a low setting and only heat one or two rooms to 70 degrees with an individual heater. That could translate into energy savings," said Reeder.
• Don't be fooled into substituting a high-priced fuel for a lower-priced fuel. "Natural gas is nearly always the lowest cost fuel compared to electric, propane or fuel oil. Don't be taken in by the sales pitch for a magical electric heater that is going to save you a pile of money and you are currently heating with a gas furnace," said Reeder. "The electricity is likely to be considerably more expensive than natural gas." See attached table for energy source cost comparisons.
• The type of heating used can make a difference when it comes to savings. "In farm buildings, contrast forced air with radiant heating. The benefit of radiant heat comes from heating the floor and other surfaces instead of heating the air directly," said Reeder.
Other simple energy-saving tips include hanging heavy drapes on windows to trap heat, opening curtains on south-facing windows on sunny days, and improving the ventilation of a home to prevent uncontrolled airflow into or through the house.