Lowering heating costs

Whether you’re a homeowner or a renter, you can reduce energy costs this winter without sacrificing comfort. Surprising savings can be achieved through basic energy efficiency measures, many of which have little or no cost. Other energy improvements may require a larger investment, but typically pay for themselves over time in the form of energy savings.

No cost savings:

Don’t let heat go up the chimney.

A fireplace is a very inefficient heating system and can account for about 14 percent of cold air entering your home. Make sure the fireplace damper and glass doors are closed when the fireplace is not in use so warm air doesn’t escape.

Don’t block the flow.

Move furniture and other objects from heating registers to prevent the blockage of heat.

Let the sunshine in.

Open south-facing window coverings during the day to let in free heat from the sun. Close all draperies and shades during the evening to reduce heat loss.

Turn down the thermostat.

For every degree you lower the thermostat, you will save up to 5 percent on heating costs.

Low cost savings:

Seal the ductwork.

Check the ductwork for disconnects, leakage and insulation problems. Sealing leaks can reduce heating costs from 10 to 20 percent. To seal, use duct mastic or UL approved duct-sealing tape. Cover and tape the ducts with duct insulation.

Install a programmable thermostat.

This is a convenience that turns your heating system on and off based on the times and temperatures that are set by you. A programmable thermostat costs less than $100, is easy to install and can save from $70 to $115 a year on your home heating costs.

Reduce air leakage.

Drafts around windows, doors, pipes, electrical light switches and outlets can account for more than 10 percent of home heating costs. One of the quickest dollar-saving tasks you can do is caulk, seal and weatherstrip all seams, cracks and openings to the outside. Large leaks are often tucked away in unlikely spots around chimney pipe openings, recessed lights, wiring and plumbing.

Change the furnace filter every month.

This will help your furnace run more efficiently, keep your air cleaner and prolong the life of your heating and cooling system. A dirty or clogged filter will demand more energy and slow down the heating process, which can increase heating costs by 10 percent.

Tune-up the heating system.

Call your heating contractor to schedule a tune-up before the heating season begins. A simple tune-up can increase a furnace’s heating efficiency and reduce heating costs from 5 to 10 percent.

Investment savings:

Purchase the most energy efficient heating system you can afford.

The National Appliance Efficiency Standard requires a minimum efficiency of 78 percent Annual Fuel Utilization Efficiency (AFUE) for natural gas furnaces and 7.7 Heating System Performance Factor (HSPF) for heat pumps. Energy Star labeled heating systems will be at least 20 percent more efficient than old furnaces.

Replace furnace if it’s more than 15 years old.

Make energy efficiency improvements to your home first like insulation, caulking and air sealing to reduce the heating requirements for your home. Shop around and get bids from several licensed heating and air conditioning contractors. Don’t buy a system that is bigger than you need because it will use more energy and provide less comfort.

Insulate the attic.

If the insulation in your attic is six inches or less — R-19 or less — your attic needs more insulation. R-30 is recommended throughout most of Central Arkansas.

Caulk and seal before insulating.

Before adding more insulation or installing new insulation anywhere in the home, seal all holes where air might leak. Typical insulation does not stop the flow of air, but slows the loss of heat.

Zero interest loans for some energy efficiency home improvements, like improving insulation, are available to Conway Corporation homeowners through its Energy Smart program. All you need to do is provide an estimate from a vendor and apply for the Energy Smart loan. Once approved, the vendor will verify the need and install your new insulation. Conway Corporation then remits payment to the vendor. It’s that easy to start saving money with a more energy efficient home.

To find out more about the loan program or to learn more energy saving tips, contact Conway Corporation at 501.450.6000 or visit conwaycorp.com/electric.