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By the end of the ’90s, if you switched from oil to natural gas to heat your home, you were well on your way to saving money. Last year, however, the price of natural gas soared, and so did consumer heating costs. And while heating accounts for 40% of the energy used in the home, there are several ways to keep your energy bills at a minimum.
- Do an audit. It will identify waste. “Check with your local utility company,” says Mozelle W. Thompson, a commissioner at the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). “Many of them will offer free or low-cost energy audits.” The U.S. Department of Energy offers a do-it-yourself audit of your home at its Website (www.home energysaver.lbl.gov).
- Close your fireplace flue. When the fireplace is not in use and its flue is open, you could be losing up to 8% of your heat.
- Regulate your thermostat. Install a programmable thermostat to automatically lower nighttime temperatures. For every degree you lower the thermostat, you cut 2% from your bill.
- Insulate. Repair caulking and weatherstripping. The key to selecting insulation is its R value. Experts recommend insulating an attic at R-30; exterior walls at R-15.
- Tune up your boiler. Plan an annual tune-up for your boiler, furnace, or heat pump. It could save 5% on your bill each month. Your utility company may offer this service. Thompson suggests noting the energy-efficiency ratings of those items. “The FTC places labels on [them] to tell you how much it will cost over time.”
Other simple procedures include closing doors to under-used rooms, covering windows, and sealing holes around heating pipes and plumbing.
“One of the wisest investments African American families can make is in a home,” says Thompson. Being smart about saving energy is just protecting a wise investment. —