It’s autumn in New England and that familiar chill is in the air once again. If you’re thinking of turning on those space heaters, you may want to think again – especially since space heating is the largest home energy expense, accounting for 45% of residential energy bills. This time of year is ideal for making key changes to your home that will maximize efficiency while keeping the cool fall air outside where it belongs. So go ahead – pull on that cozy sweater, grab a pumpkin spice latte and put the following home energy-saving tips into action.

Conquer the Drafts

One of the easiest and most effective ways to cut heating costs is to seal up any areas where heat could be escaping. Check your home thoroughly, concentrating primarily on windows, doors and electrical outlets. Sealing these areas with caulk and other weather-stripping materials can save you up to 15% on your heating bill.

Insulate

If your home is currently insulated with less than 12 inches of material, there’s a very good chance you’re losing heat as a result. Before the weather gets even colder, check your home to see if there are any areas where additional insulation might be needed, such as the attic.

Clear All Vents

If your vents are being blocked, that means your heater is working harder than it needs to. Check to make sure there is nothing obstructing them, like drapes or furniture. You should also thoroughly vacuum your dampers to remove any excess dust or debris – especially if you own pets.

Tune Up Your System

Keeping your heating system in good working order will ensure that you’re not paying more than you should be for energy usage. Investing in regular tune ups will also help extend the life of your equipment, saving you money over time. Lastly, regular professional servicing provides the opportunity to identify any other issues that may be costly so that you can address them before they worsen.

Change Your Filters

Another thing that can make a heating system work harder than it needs to is a dirty air filter. The harder your heater has to work, the higher your energy costs will go. Cleaning and/or replacing air filters every month will ensure adequate air flow. It’ll also help keep your system operating at peak performance and improve air quality by reducing dust and other allergens.

Take Advantage of Nature

Obviously, it’s not possible to go entirely without heat during the colder months, but opening your drapes to let the sun in during the day can do wonders for naturally heating your home. Just remember to pull them closed again once the sun goes down. This will help trap the warmth and keep the chill out.

Have a Backup Plan

If previous years were any indicator of how this coming fall and winter seasons will be, preparing ahead for frigid temperatures is a must for New Englanders. One way you can ensure that your home and family will remain warm, safe and comfortable is to have a backup heating plan in place. As an added  bonus, having a backup, such as a fireplace, wood burning stove or standalone heater that doesn’t run on electricity will also help you save on energy bills. Either way, the time to plan ahead is now.

Check the Thermostat

The Department of Energy (DOE) recommends keeping your home at a temperature of 68°F while you are awake and lowering it while you are either sleeping or away from your home. Doing so can save you up to 10% in energy costs each year. The easiest way to follow these guidelines is to invest in a programmable thermostat that you can set it and forget it.

Upgrade Old, Inefficient Heating Systems

There are a number of red flags that may indicate it’s time to consider replacing your existing heating equipment with an energy-efficient system. For instance, if your furnace or boiler is more than 15 years old or if your system requires frequent repairs, it may be wiser financially to upgrade.

Another way to tell is to measure your home’s energy use score using the Home Energy Yardstick. If your score is five or below, you’re probably paying more than you should be on your energy bills and could save significantly by upgrading.

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