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Dutchess County Winter Heating Resource Guide

- Fuel Saving Ideas -

 

 

  • See how low you can go. For each degree you turn down your thermostat, you will cut your fuel consumption by 2 to 3 percent, according to the U.S. Department of Energy. Utility companies suggest setting the thermostat as low as 68 degrees Fahrenheit when you’re at home during the day and 60 degrees when nobody is home or everybody is in bed. One big exception: the elderly and other people at risk for hypothermia, who shouldn’t let the temperature fall below about 65 degrees. Don’t make yourself miserable just to save a few bucks, however. If a 60-degree bedroom makes you feel like Nanook of Northern Illinois, crank that thermostat back up a little. You can set your thermostat even lower if you’re going off on vacation. But keep it at or above 50 degrees, or you will risk frozen pipes and furious goldfish.
     
  • Wrap your hot water heater in an insulating jacket.
     
  • Turn down the water heater too. Because water heaters have to be ready to go at the touch of a faucet, they use heat even when you’re not using water. If you have a dishwasher, you should set your water heater thermostat at up to 140 degrees, according to Con Edison, the big utility company in New York City and environs. Otherwise, a setting as low as 110 degrees should do the job. (If you have young children, note that the American Academy of Pediatrics advises keeping the water temperature below 120 to avoid scalding.)
     
  • Clean or replace filters on forced-air furnaces, seal flues in fireplaces you don’t use, install draperies or some other covering on windows, and seal holes around plumbing and heating pipes.
     
  • When buying a new furnace, boiler, heat pump, water heater, or other home appliance, consider a high efficiency model. While energy-efficient appliances may cost more, they may save you in the long run.
     
  • Add insulation. Good insulation will not only conserve warmth in the winter but also help keep your summer air-conditioning bills from giving you heat stroke. The Energy Department says that by investing several hundred dollars in insulation, homeowners can save five to 30 percent on heating and cooling costs. The type, thickness, and R-value (for resistance to heat flow) of the insulation you need will depend on where you live, how you heat your home, and how much of the stuff you already have. Your local gas or electric utility company should be able to advise you; many do free or low-cost home inspections to point out ways to save energy.
     
  • Block that leak. A windy winter day is an ideal time to locate leaks around doors, windows, and electrical outlets. Use caulk and weather-stripping to seal drafty doors and windows. Check your attic, attic stairway, attached garage walls and basement to make sure your home is properly insulated. When inspecting and buying home-insulation products, look for the R-value. The higher the R-value, the greater the insulating power.  About $50 worth of materials should cover the average house. You can also buy pre-cut foam gaskets to block leaks from light switches and electric outlets on outside walls. They cost about 25 cents apiece at hardware stores.
     
  • Prune shrubs that may block airflow to your heat pump.  Schedule an annual tune-up for your heat pump, furnace or boiler.
     
  • Check your attic, attic stairway, attached garage walls and basement to make sure your home is properly insulated. When inspecting and buying home-insulation products, look for the R-value. The higher the R-value, the greater the insulating power.
     
  • Don’t forget the fireplace. Cozy though they may be, fireplaces don’t give off a whole lot of heat. But they are terrific at drawing the air heated by your furnace right out the chimney. Glass fireplace doors, which cost about $75 a set, will help block the escape of warm air while a fire is roaring. And, if you are not using your fireplace, remember to close the damper.
     
  • Close your foundation vents in the winter if there’s a crawl space under your home.
     
  • Follow the sun. Open the curtains during the day to let the sun’s heat in. Shut them at night (or on dark days) to keep it in.
     
  • Put up storm windows if you have them. If not, you can apply clear plastic film over windows and screens using inexpensive kits sold in hardware and home-improvement stores. Enough film to cover a three-by-five foot window area, for example, costs about $2.50.
     
  • Can the fan. Use kitchen and bathroom fans sparingly when the heat is on. The Department of Energy says that a fan left running for just an hour can suck away a whole house full of warm air.
     
  • Ask your utility or oil company about a budget billing plan to protect against sudden or unexpected price increases.  If you’re on a fixed income and have trouble paying your utility bills, contact your utility company. They may have energy-assistance plans to help you pay your heating bills.
     
  • Join a fuel-buying club or co-op. Local buying clubs and co-ops purchase fuel oil in volume and share the savings with their members. To find out whether there’s a club or co-op in your area, check the Yellow Pages or call local consumer groups.
     

 

When energy prices rise, so does advertising for a host of energy-saving products and services – including some that are overpriced or just plain bogus. Be wary of devices, gadgets, and energy-saving products that promise drastic reductions in home-heating costs or extreme energy savings. Avoid unsolicited door-to-door sales calls and high-pressure sales pitches from contractors offering furnaces, windows, roofing and other home-improvement projects.

Home heating oil prices vary considerably. You must shop around to obtain the best prices.

We have provided some links to help you further. They provide some additional consumer tips and local price averages:

     - Furnace Compare:  http://www.furnacecompare.com/fuel-oil-coops/

     - NYS Energy Research Development Authority:  http://www.nyserda.org/        

     

 


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A. K. Vaidian, MD, MPH,Commissioner of Behavioral & Community Health A. K. Vaidian, MD, MPH
Commissioner of Behavioral & Community Health
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