By Marc Mazzei,President,

Southern Tier Home Builders & Remodelers Association


As temperatures drop during
the winter, home fueling costs often increase for home owners. Fuel options for
home owners largely depend on the region — in the Northeast, fuel oil or
electricity are most prominent while in rural areas, propane and wood are often
the main choices. But whatever your heating fuel options are, you have options
to reduce your costs.

Reducing fuel costs can
involve both short-term and long-term solutions and range from simple,
inexpensive changes to major home modifications. Here are some ways that you
can keep the cold out and the costs down this winter:

Reduce Air Leaks

By caulking and sealing air leaks
in a home, an average household can cut 10 percent of their monthly energy
bill. Use caulk to seal any cracks or small openings on non-moving surfaces
such as where window frames meet the house structure. Make sure your weather
stripping in exterior door frames hasn’t deteriorated and cracked, if it has,
replace it.


Sealing windows and doors will
help, but the worst culprits are usually utility cut-throughs for pipes
(plumping penetrations), gaps around chimneys and recessed lights in insulated
ceilings, and unfinished spaces behind cupboards and closets. You can buy
material that expands to fill the gaps and keep air from flowing through.


Use Energy Wisely

Set the
temperature of your water heater to the warm setting (120 F). If your water
heater is older, get an insulating blanket to wrap around it and reduce heat
loss. Newer heaters are much more energy efficient and a blanket won’t make a
noticeable impact.


Lower the
thermostat setting to 50 or 55 degrees when you are using your fireplace and
the furnace is on. Some warmed air will still be lost, but the furnace won’t
have to use as much fuel to keep the rest of the house at its usual


Install a programmable
smart thermostat that allows you to lower the heat during the workday or at
night when you’re asleep, and automatically increase the setting before you get
home or awake in the morning.


Install Energy-Efficient Products

Upgrading to
energy-efficient appliances and products such as new HVAC systems,
high-performance windows and ENERGY-STAR rated appliances will also help lower your
electricity bills. Windows with low-E glass may cost 10 to 30 percent more than
conventional glass double-pane windows, but their effectiveness in keeping your
wintertime heat indoors will make up for it with lower heat costs over time.


incandescent lights with compact fluorescents can save home owners up to three-quarters
of the electricity previously used by incandescents. The best targets are
60-100 watt bulbs used for several hours a day. Check the fixtures to ensure
they will accommodate the slightly larger compact fluorescents.


The best way to reduce your home’s
overall energy consumption is to hire a professional energy auditor to evaluate
your home and identify all the inefficiencies. It may cost a couple hundred
dollars, but will save you much more over the long run.

For more information and tips,
contact Southern Tier Home Builders & Remodelers Association  or visit the National
Association of Home Builders website at