The polar plunge that descended over the country and brought with it brutal cold that has gripped most of the eastern two–thirds of the United States, has forced many Americans to dig deep into their wallets to pay for increased heating expenses. As most people prepare to battle against hypothermia, frozen pipes and frostbite, the ever–increasing energy prices have worsened the situation. Energy supply limitations and massive demand have sent prices soaring, despite the impressive developments in the energy production industry.
According to recent Energy Information Agency reports, reduced supply from natural gas terminals and congestion on the pipelines has resulted in spikes in the cost of natural gas, while cold weather has had the biggest effect on propane prices, particularly in the Midwest, where residential propane prices doubled as demand rose. The agency estimates that up to 90 percent of the nearly 116 million households in America will face increased energy bills this winter.
Experts estimate that raising the thermostat level by one degree will increase the cost by up to three percent, which will make it difficult for many people to stay warm and safe this year. Extreme cold weather and the rising cost of energy will require homeowners to perform a delicate balancing act between keeping the thermostat at a temperature that prevents the pipes from freezing and therefore bursting, and keeping it low enough to avoid paying higher heating costs. Two methods of preventing pipes from freezing is by allowing warmer air to circulate around the pipes by opening the cabinets below the faucets, or allowing the taps to leak throughout the night.
Another way of minimizing the cost of heating for the long–term is by buying a modern, energy–efficient furnace; however, buying and installing new furnaces is expensive; therefore, it is important to calculate the monthly savings on heating costs, and the duration it would take for the savings to equal the cost of the new furnaces. Three factors to consider when choosing an energy–efficient furnace include the cost of energy, the energy–efficiency level of the furnace, and the home’s heating load.
For people who do not have the finances to invest in a modern furnace or those with a furnace that has several good years left, there are other ways of enhancing their home’s fuel efficiency. A homeowner can significantly reduce heating costs by weather stripping the house and insulating the walls and attic.
Homeowners using electric space heaters should place them at least three feet from flammable household items and curtains. Other methods of guarding against accidental fires when using such heaters are by using the best quality extension cord and by switching off the heater when not in a room.
An energy audit by a professional HVAC technician with detailed information about a home’s draft inlets is essential to finding the best insulation method and thus minimizing the cost of heating.