Heating Costs to Soar...

Whether you heat your home with oil, propane or natural gas—brace yourself. Your heating bill is going to be 30 to 70 percent higher than last winter. Unless you live in Hawaii (in which case you have other soaring costs to deal with), it’s time to move into action.

Buy C.O.D. If you heat with fuel oil, signing a contract now may not be the best way to go. An alternative is to make a list of c.o.d. companies (cash on delivery) that deliver in your area and offer 24-hour emergency furnace repair. Then, at least 24 hours before you need a delivery, call your list of dealers to get the best price.
If buying c.o.d. seems too risky because of the potential for price spikes, consider joining an oil-buying group like Heat USA (HeatUSA.com) and BJ’s Wholesale Club (BJs.com).

Programmable thermostat. For as little as $20 you can buy a programmable thermostat that is simple to install and allows you to preset your home’s temperature. Because this is such an effective way to reduce energy usage, many utility companies offer a nice rebate to encourage customers to make the installation.

Energy audit. Many utility companies offer free home energy audits. An expert comes to your home and shows you specific things you can do to reduce your heating costs. If yours offers this take advantage of it. If not, search the Internet for specific things you can do to winterize your home (for example see www.mdteam.com/support.php). Weather stripping you can install yourself around windows and doors to make sure they seal tightly, plastic covering on windows, installing storm windows, keeping drapes drawn and humidifying the air are all simple tactics that when added together can make a big difference.

Conserve. In the cold months keep your thermostat at 68 F. When no one is home, lower it to 55 degrees and 60 degrees when you’re in bed. For each degree you lower your thermostat, you will cut your fuel consumption by 2 to 3 percent.

Enroll in a budget-billing program.
A level-pay-plan allows you to spread high winter bills into equal monthly payments. Most utility companies offer a version of this option. If you sign up now you’ll know what to expect come January and February.


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