High Cost of Heating Your Home
Federal Trade Commision
issues consumer alert on how to keep heating costs down
DC (SafetyAlerts) - Recent news
reports about rising oil prices may have you shivering, even though fall just arrived.
Whether you heat your home with oil, natural gas, or electricity, the Federal Trade
Commission has some tips to help you save money and stay warm this winter.
Conduct an energy audit to
help detect waste and gauge the efficiency of your current heating system.
Your utility company may offer free
or low-cost energy audits, or you can conduct your own. The U.S. Department of Energy
(DOE) offers instructions at www.homeenergysaver.lbl.gov.
The home "walk-through" may help you spot needed maintenance or problems that,
if fixed, could save you money. For example:
Check your attic, attic stairway,
attached garage walls and basement to make sure your home is insulated to DOE-recommended
levels for your area. When inspecting and buying home insulation products, look for the
R-value. The higher the R-value, the greater the insulating power.
Wrap your hot water heater in an
insulating jacket. Schedule an annual tune-up for your heat pump, furnace or boiler. Your
utility company may provide this service.
Hire a professional to seal and insulate leaky ducts, and to ensure that the airflow
distribution system serving your heating equipment is operating at peak efficiency.
Clean or replace filters on
forced-air furnaces, seal flues in fireplaces you don't use, install drapes or some other
covering on windows, and seal holes around plumbing and heating pipes.
Install a programmable thermostat
that will automatically lower nighttime temperatures.
Check caulking and
weatherstripping, and repair where necessary.
Close your foundation vents in the
winter if there's a crawl space under your home.
Close the doors to rooms that you
Prune shrubs that may block airflow
to your heat pump.
Install ceiling fans. The air circulation promotes heating efficiency in the winter.
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 money in the long run. To
compare models, check the black and yellow EnergyGuide labels required by the FTC
on most major appliances. The labels provide useful information about products' energy use
or efficiency and estimated annual operating costs.
Shop around for the best prices on
oil and gas, if you live in an area that lets you choose your natural gas provider.
Ask your utility or oil company
about a budget billing plan to protect against sudden or unexpected price increases. Your
provider takes the amount of energy you use during one year and divides it into equal
monthly payments. At the end of the season, you pay any outstanding balance or your
provider credits any overpayment to your next monthly bill.
If you're on a fixed income and
have trouble paying your utility bills, contact your utility company. They, or your state
or local government, may have energy assistance plans to help you pay your heating bills.
Don't Get Burned
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.
Read energy-saving claims carefully
and, if possible, get independent information about product performance. Avoid unsolicited
door-to-door sales calls and high pressure sales pitches from contractors offering
furnaces, windows, roofing, and other home improvement projects.
To make sure that a contractor is
licensed and reputable: Ask friends and neighbors for referrals; ask the contractor for
customer references; and check out potential contractors with the Better Business Bureau,
state and local consumer protection officials, and your state licensing agency.
The FTC's Cooling-Off Rule gives you
three business days to cancel a contract if you sign it in your home or at a location
other than the contractor's permanent place of business.
For More Information
Call the FTC toll-free,
1-877-FTC-HELP (1-877-382-4357) or visit www.ftc.gov, to get the free publications,
Heating and Cooling Your Home and How to Buy an Energy-Efficient Home Appliance.
DOE's Energy Efficiency and Renewable
Energy Network is a clearinghouse of energy-efficiency information. Find it online at www.eren.doe.gov; call toll-free,
1-800-DOE-EREC (1-800-363-3732) (TDD: 1-800-273-2957); or write to U.S. Department of
Energy B EREC, PO Box 3048, Merrifield, VA 22116.
Safety Alerts compiles
comprehensive safety recall information for the United States. SafeMail is a free email
service to warn consumers of faulty products and contaminated foods. For complete
information regarding current recalls, past recalls and timely product warning
notification visit: www.safetyalerts.com.