Get ready for higher energy bills this winter

The U.S. Energy Information Administration says households should brace for heating bills that could be as much as 54% higher than last year.   

It looks like those heating with natural gas will take the biggest hit. Those with electric heat won’t feel quite as much of the cost increase bite but they will be paying more, according to the forecast. 

KRISTI BAILEY – 2021 NETAR President

The news should cause homeowners who haven’t already winterized to get busy. As a guide, we’re revisiting much of the information presented a couple of weeks ago and doing another reminder for HouseLogic’s advice for homeowners.  

One of the most important winterization checkpoints should be a heating system inspection and tune-up. But unless you’re an accomplished do-it-yourself, this inspection is best left to a professional.  

An often-overlooked money-saving item that doesn’t necessarily require professional service is heating system ducts. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, a central heating system can lose up to 60 percent of its heated air before it reaches the rooms to be heated if ductwork is not well-connected, clean, and insulated in unheated areas. Ducts should be vacuumed once every three or four years.  

Some of the other energy and comfort items that are part of a heating system’s winterization effort should include stocking up on filters. Dirty filters impede the heating system’s airflow and reduce efficiency. If you haven’t already done it, consider switching out your old thermostat for a programmable digital thermostat. It doesn’t cost much, and the energy efficiency increase is worth the cost and effort.  

If you have a fireplace and the chimney has not been cleaned for a while, schedule an appointment with a chimney sweep. If you have a wood-burning stove, it also needs annual maintenance and exhaust cleaning. 

After the heating system is fine-tuned, it is time to move outdoors. Check the doors and windows for any weather-stripping that needs replacing.  

Rake all debris and vegetation away from your home’s foundation, and then look for crevices, cracks, or spaces around pipes that need to be sealed. Even if it is a small crack, seal it. Your efforts will be rewarded with fewer unwanted crawly guests seeking shelter.  

One way to check for air leaks inside the house is to walk around the drafty areas on a breezy day with a lighted incense stick or candle. You will be able to see exactly where the drafts are compromising your electric bill. Once you discover the drafts, you can block the outside air invasion with caulk or insulation strips.  

Door sweeps are a good idea to close spaces under exterior doors.  

After the annual leaf fall, clean your home’s gutters and check the flashing to ensure water cannot enter the home. This time is also ideal to winterize your summer garden and store those summertime tools. Be sure to drain all hoses and insulate any exposed pipes. If any tree branches hang too close to the house or electrical wires, trim them. Apply the same trimming to shrubs if their growth touches the house. Lastly, seal driveways, brick patios, and wood decks. 

Another thing to remember is reversing your ceiling fans. Reversing the ceiling fan’s direction from the summer setting, it will push warm air downward and force it to re-circulate, keeping the room – and you – more comfortable.  

If you are unsure how to reverse the ceiling fan and the switch does not indicate a winter/summer selection, turn it on and watch the blades’ direction. They should be turning clockwise during the winter. Check out HouseLogic’s tips for saving on energy costs at https://www.houselogic.com/ It’s a free service of the National Association of REALTORS® offers tips agents can use for their marketing. It’s also a home base for savvy homeowners looking for information and tips on everything from maintenance advice to cutting energy costs. 

NETAR is the voice for real estate in Northeast Tennessee. It’s the largest trade association in Northeast Tennessee, Southwest Virginia region representing over 1,500 members and 100 affiliates involved in all aspects of the residential and commercial real estate industries.  

NETAR is the voice for real estate in Northeast Tennessee. It is the largest trade association in the Northeast Tennessee, Southwest Virginia region, representing over 1,600+ members and 100+ business partners involved in all aspects of the residential and commercial real estate industries. Weekly market reports and information for both consumers and members are available on the NETAR website at https://netar.us