While a lot of recent attention has been focused on rising home heating costs, the price of gasoline is still a source of concern for many Americans. To help reduce your overall gas consumption consider the following tips:
- Drive wisely. Aggressive driving (raking, speeding and rapid acceleration) is not only unsafe but a waste of gas – you can use up to 33 percent more gas by driving aggressively at highway speeds!
- Keep it at 60. Because of most cars’ design, it will actually cost you gas (and money) to drive above the speed limit. A good rule of thumb is that each 5 mph over 60 mph is like paying an additional 21 cents per gallon for gas. Using your cruise control on the highway can help you maintain a safer (and more economical) speed.
- Keep it tuned up. Replacing dirty air filters, improving your car’s emission system and other standard tune-ups can help improve your mileage considerably, meaning you will have to make fewer trips to the pump.
- Pump your tires up. By keeping your tires property inflated to their proper pressure you can increase your fuel economy up to 3%.
- Get the right oil. By using the manufacturer’s recommended grade of motor oil for your car you can increase your car’s fuel performance by 1-2%. Also look for motor oil that says “energy conserving” on the label to make sure it contains fuel- reducing additives.
To really reduce your cost of gas, consider temporarily using public transportation, car-pooling or taking a bike ride for your next trip. Even a periodic trip by foot, bus, carpool or bike can help lower your gas costs…and it can help the environment at the same time!
If you’re like most Americans, you expect to pay more to heat your home this winter. Households using natural gas are expected to spend $350 more to heat their homes this winter, up to 60 percent more in the Midwest. Propane users can expect to pay up to 30 percent more and it will cost approximately 5 percent more for people using electricity to heat their homes this winter.
The good news is that there are some simple things you can do now to take the bite out of your home heating bills this winter.
- Consider asking your local utility company or an independent “energy auditor” tocheck your home for its energy-efficiency. An expert can use a variety of technologies such as a calibrated blower door, infrared cameras and surface thermometers to identify subtle leaks and drafts that you would otherwise not be able to detect. The audit will assess how much energy your home uses and can help you determine what changes you can make to increase your home’s energy-efficiency. To be best prepared for your energy audit, have copies of your most recent energy bills, preferably a full year back so the auditor can see how much energy your house has been consuming. The auditor will examine your home’s physical property (i.e. exterior features, windows, wall area, etc.) and then ask about how you use your home, such as if you work from home during the day, how many people live in the home, and the average thermostat setting.
- You can find an expert auditor under “Energy” in your phone book, through your state or local weatherization office, or your electric or gas utility company. Check out potential auditors, and suggested references from friends and family members, with the Better Business Bureau before contracting someone to perform the audit. If you prefer a more “hands-on” approach, click here for a list of “do-it-yourself” home energy audit tips from the U.S. Department of Energy.
- Check your home’s insulation. It may sound obvious, but the less insulation you have, the colder your home will be. Only 20 percent of homes built prior to 1980 have adequate insulation. Places to check your insulation (or asking a contractor to check) are your attic, ceilings, floors, crawl spaces, and basement walls. If you have less than 6-7 inches of insulation you will probably benefit from installing additional insulation. Insulation is relatively inexpensive to buy at any hardware store and not difficult to install. If you have one choice, put additional insulation in your attic to see an immediate difference in your home’s temperature and heating bill cost!
- Caulk and weatherstrip doors and windows. Cracks let out the heat and let in the cold air. Simple caulking or putting in new weatherstripping will help reduce drafts and lower your bill.
- Check and replace furnace or heat pump filters once a month, or as needed.
- Shut vents and close doors in unused rooms.
- About 16% of an average family’s home energy bill is just for heating water. You can lower your home water heating costs it by using cold water for washing clothes, installing low-flow shower heads, doing only full loads of wash or dishes, and lowering the temperature on your water heater thermostat to 120 degrees (which is a recommended safety tip particularly for families with young children).
- Check for an open fireplace damper. Don’t let that precious hot air escape up and out your chimney! If you don’t ever use your fireplace, consider having it plugged and sealed by a professional. Check and re-caulk your fireplace hearth if necessary.
- Set the thermostat as low as is comfortable, and if you have a programmable thermostat, program it to lower the temperature at night while your family is sleeping and then begin to warm up before you begin waking up.
- Insulate your hot-water storage tank and pipes, especially if the tank and pipes are in an unheated area such as a basement or garage. Uninsulated pipes and hot water tanks require more energy to heat the water inside.
- If you are considering new appliances, look for the Energy Star and EnergyGuide label to compare energy-efficiency ratings. The more energy efficient the appliance the less energy required to run it, which results in lower utility bills for you!
- If you have single-pane windows in your home, consider replacing them with more energy-efficient double-pane windows. Storm windows can reduce your winter heat loss by 25 – 50%! If you live in a cold climate, look for windows that are gas-filled with low-emissivity (low-e) glass coating which reduces heat loss. Some simple steps to take include closing curtains and shades at night, and opening them during the day, and installing storm windows or insulating plastic to reduce heat loss.
- Clean warm-air registers, baseboard heaters and radiators and make sure that they’re not being blocked by furniture, carpet or draperies.