November 22, 2005
Common Sense on Efficiently Heating your Home
As temperatures fall, Iowans’ home heating bills are rising at rapid rates. Due to increasing gas prices, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) is predicting that households heated by gas can expect their fuel bills to rise by almost 50 percent this winter. The DOE also warned that natural gas prices in the Midwest could jump as much as 71 percent.
I’m doing everything I can here in the Senate to ensure that all Iowans can afford to stay warm this winter. I have repeatedly called on Congress to provide emergency funding to the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP), which helps low-income families, the disabled, and senior citizens living on fixed incomes receive relief from their high home energy costs. Although applications for home heating assistance have already skyrocketed by 50 to 70 percent, Congress has repeatedly failed to provide additional funding for this program. However, I will keep fighting for this crucial relief for Iowa families, so that no one is forced into making a choice between paying their home energy bills and affording other basic needs such as prescription drugs, housing, and food.
In the mean time, there are several simple steps you can take right now to lower your home heating and energy bills.
• Consider buying window insulation kits from your local hardware store. They cost around $4-$6 per window and the insulating air pocket created can reduce heat loss by 25-50 percent.
• Make sure your water heater has an insulating blanket. An insulation blanket is a thick fiberglass blanket, secured around the tank by waterproof tape. If your water heater does not have at least R-24 grade insulation, adding insulation to your water heater can reduce standby heat losses by 25–45 percent.
• Insulate hot water pipes and ducts wherever they run through unheated areas.
• Seal up the largest air leaks in your house - the ones that whistle on windy days or feel drafty. The worst culprits are actually utility cut-throughs for pipes ("plumbing penetrations"), gaps around chimneys and recessed lights in insulated ceilings, and unfinished spaces behind cupboards and closets. Also, apply caulk to leaky windows.
• Install a clock thermostat that sets your thermostat back automatically at night.
• Clean or replace furnace, air-conditioner, and heat-pump filters.
• Put a rug up against the bottom of outside doors to help keep the cold air out.
• Turn down the temperature of your water heater to the warm setting (120°F).
• Schedule an energy audit and ask your utility company for more advice on efficiently heating your home.
Most importantly, keep in mind that saving energy is not only important during winter’s bitterly cold months. By conducting routine check ups and by staying up with the latest ways to save conserve energy, you can save money all year round.
(All statistics adapted from information provided by the American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy)