Last year the Pittsburgh area got a little break during one of the warmest winter seasons to date. This year, the forecast doesn’t look so compassionate – it should be cooler. On average, Pittsburgh has over 100 freezing days and has been ranked among the coldest cities in the United States.
Along with pulling out your gloves and hats, you might also be thinking about how to stay warm and safe at home throughout the winter season.
It can be even more difficult when prices seem to go up due to heat and other necessities.
The US Energy Information Administration predicts that winter natural gas bills in the Northeast will be about 18% higher than last year. Nationally, nearly half of homes depend on natural gas, and locals are expected to spend an average of $ 865 for the season.
Propane and heating oil bills are expected to rise even more sharply, due to factors such as lower global crude oil inventories.
With residents already facing an economic crisis from the pandemic, there are ways to save money on heating, including small behavioral adjustments and programs for low-income households that need to repair or replace heaters. heating systems.
Tips for reducing your heating costs
Setting your thermostat to a lower temperature when you sleep or are away from home can save your household up to 10% per year on heating costs. The US Department of Energy recommends setting your thermostat to 68 degrees during the day and as low as you want at night.
Keep thermostats on an interior wall and away from direct sunlight, drafts, doors, skylights and windows to improve performance and efficiency. The installation instructions will include methods to prevent ghost readings that cause unnecessary use of the heater.
The Ministry of Energy advises against the use of programmable thermostats for heat pumps. To save costs, it is best to set them to a moderate setting.
Consumer Reports has compiled a list of measures to keep your heating costs down, including things like lowering your thermostat and plugging air leaks in doors and windows and making sure air filters are replaced when necessary. .
Insulation is also important. Insulating your home can save up to 20% on heating and cooling costs, according to the Department of Energy. Professional home energy assessments are a good way to determine which parts of your home are using the most energy and how to fix them.
It is possible to assess the energy efficiency of your home without professional help by performing a thorough inspection. If you find insulation to be a major problem, find out three things for yourself: where your house is located and where it is not properly insulated; what type of insulation you have; and the R-value and the thickness (or depth in inches) of the insulation you have. Some people might be able to contact the home builder to answer some of these questions, while others may look at structural elements.
Before insulating, make sure your home is airtight to prevent leaks. If an assessment leads you to the decision to add insulation to your home, you must decide where to insulate and what type of insulation to use. Many types of insulation can be installed without calling a professional.
Are you ready for a winter in Pittsburgh?
- Waterproof your home with caulk or weatherstripping and insulate water lines to prevent freezing.
- Salt your walkways and your driveway to avoid accidents and injuries.
- Repair any aspect of the roof and cut tree branches that could fall on your home and cause damage.
- Check your chimney, smoke detectors, and carbon monoxide detectors, especially if you plan to use a kerosene fireplace or heater.
- Winter weather can cause power outages, so stock food, batteries, and first aid kits around the house.
- Avoid traveling in bad weather but, if necessary, be sure to prepare your car and create an emergency car kit.
Need help with heating costs?
The Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program [LIHEAP] offers cash grants to help cover the heating bills of families in need. Crisis allowances are also offered to households in emergency situations. You can determine if you are eligible and apply for benefits online here, or in person at the county assistance office.
Households in difficulty can also benefit from the assistance of the public services of the State. Budget billing is a good option that can be requested by any residential customer, and the CARES program is available specifically for households going through temporary hardships such as family emergencies.
Low-income households (those at or below 200% of the federal poverty line) are eligible for Pennsylvania’s Bloat Assistance Program, with priority given to high-risk residents. Energy audits are performed around the home to determine the best ways to increase efficiency. ACTION-Housing is one of Pennsylvania’s largest weather protection providers and operates the Allegheny County Assistance Program. Eligible residents can apply here.
Replacing your heating system can be expensive, but waiting for it to fail can end up costing even more. Some signs, including the age of your appliance or excessive noise, suggest that it may be time to replace your heating equipment.
If the cost of an upgrade seems daunting, you may be able to pay it off with an “energy efficient mortgage,” which can help finance energy efficient upgrades or be used towards the purchase of an energy efficient home. . Federal tax credits are also available until December 31 and are available to those whose home heating equipment is considered energy efficient.
Practice safe heating methods
Central heating is not always an option. If used safely, other sources such as radiators and fireplaces could be options for heating a room. However, you should never use appliances like your oven or stove to heat. Not only is it dangerous, it can also increase your gas or electricity bills. When using a heater, it is important to keep it away from anything that can burn, and to make sure the space is well ventilated.
Heating equipment fires accounted for 14% of all reported home fires from 2014 to 2018, according to the National Fire Protections Association. The risk of exposure to carbon monoxide often increases in the winter and is associated with faulty heaters. or other heating methods. More information on the risks of alternative heating methods can be found here.
To keep costs down and stay safe, it’s important to understand which heating method is best for your home. HVAC contractors can advise you on your HVAC system, and if cost is a barrier, resources like the Pennsylvania Bloat Assistance Program can help keep you warm and safe when the temperature drops.
There are regulations in Allegheny County that your home must meet to establish safety and health standards for residents. If the place where you live violates any of these regulations, you can contact the landlord or the health department. If there is difficulty reaching these contacts and seeing the results quickly, you can file a complaint or ownership issue here.
Complaints about utilities can also be filed here if you have already contacted your utility provider and they did not resolve the issue.
Elizabeth Prall is a Editorial and Engagement Intern at PublicSource. She can be reached at [email protected]
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