Burn gas, not cash, to heat this winter

There is definitely a nip in the air and many of us will be flipping the furnace from “off” to “heat” very soon. Do you remember your heating bills from last winter? No? Neither do I. That’s because natural gas prices have been at record lows.

Since 75 percent of Coloradans use natural gas to heat our homes, the past couple of heating seasons haven’t been so hard on the wallet. But that may change this year, according to a number of local and national energy analysts. They say that new demand for natural gas coupled with decreased production may lead to a price spike.

So what can you do? Although you can’t control the price of natural gas (or electricity or propane), you can keep your use in check. Follow these tips as we start heading in to the long heating season ahead:

• When you’re home, set the thermostat as low as comfortable (i.e. 68 degrees F).

• At night or when no one is home, set the thermostat to 60 degrees.

• When the house is empty for more than 24 hours, turn the thermostat to 50-55 degrees.

• Install a programmable thermostat to automatically provide these varying temperatures.

• When you are not using your fireplace, close the damper or consider use of a chimney balloon.

• Reduce heat in unused rooms if possible and close the doors.

• Replace furnace filters once a month during the heating season.

• Make sure heating registers are not blocked.

• Have your furnace checked annually by a trained professional.

• In forced-air furnaces, seal all joints in sheet metal ducts with duct mastic.

• Insulate ducts and pipes passing through unheated spaces.

• Use kitchen, bath and other ventilating fans only when needed.

• Install insulating gaskets behind electrical outlets and switch plates on exterior walls.

• Caulk and weather strip your doors and windows as needed.

• Caulk and seal leaks where plumbing, ducting or electrical wiring penetrates through exterior walls, floors and ceilings.

• Use an inexpensive door sweep to reduce air leakage under exterior doors.

• Upgrade attic insulation to R-38 or higher.

• Insulate exterior heated basement walls to at least R-11.

• Insulate floors over unheated areas to R-19.

• Open south-facing blinds and shades on sunny winter days and close them at night.

• Install storm windows over single pane windows or use plastic film window kits.

• Replace single pane windows with energy-efficient double- or triple-pane windows mounted in nonconducting window frames.

• Replace an aging furnace or water heater with an efficient model, preferably one with an Energy Star or Most Efficient label.

The above information was provided by Cary Weiner, Colorado State University energy specialist.

This story was posted on September 29, 2016.