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Home improvement financing can help owners stay warm this winter

Posted on Monday, December 9, 2013 at 10:25:37 AM

Of the 116 million households in the U.S., 90 percent of them are expected to have higher heating costs this winter than last, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration. Homes heating with natural gas, propane and electric heat are all expected to see rising expenses, which could add up to thousands of dollars more by the time the season is finished.

Therefore, homeowners may want to consider home improvement financing in order to make cost-effective, energy-saving changes this winter. Recently, Home Loan Investment Bank's Brian Harvey offered some crucial advice for anyone looking to reduce their heating bills during the coldest season of the year.

Harvey noted that energy-efficiency is a hot topic as 2013 winds to its close, and that saving money on heating costs can often be extremely simple and inexpensive by making a few quick changes.

"Install a ceiling fan," he explained. "Ceiling fans help to distribute air throughout the house more evenly and help to keep hot air from rising up and out of the home. Be sure to turn the motor on reverse during the winter to draw air upward instead of pushing it down."

In addition, Harvey added that homeowners should also "turn the heat down at night and when no one is home. Turning the heat down several degrees - to say 60 degrees - will make a big difference. And, by spending a few dollars you can purchase and install a programmable thermostat to avoid having to do it manually."

Home improvement financing doesn't need to be reserved for major expenses, either. There are plenty of smaller changes that can make a big difference, like focusing on windows and doors.

"Drafty windows and doors are one of the main reasons your home loses energy in the colder months," he said. "Many doors and windows go unused during this time and by eliminating their drafts you can greatly increase their energy efficiency. Door and window kits can be purchased at your local hardware store for between $5 and $20 and are easily installed, requiring only a measuring tape, scissors and a hairdryer. Drafty windows and doors can also be combated by inspecting and re-applying the caulking and weather stripping around them, but swapping out your screens and replacing them with storm doors and windows. These can add an inexpensive cost savings insulator as well."  

Missing storm doors and windows can also prove problematic during a sale, Harvey explained. These features can be viewed as more attractive by many potential buyers.

"Storm doors and windows create an air pocket between the two that acts as a fantastic insulator," he added. "If there is not a storm door, they are relatively inexpensive and easily installed with the use of a caulk gun and a cordless screwdriver. It will also give your home more curb appeal and increase the overall value of the home giving you a great return on your investment."

Fortunately a variety of options exist for any homeowner feeling overwhelmed during the winter, like home improvement financing or an energy audit. According to Harvey, these audits have become quite popular, and could provide many ways to maximize a home's energy efficiency. However, they could also lead to bigger, and more expensive, repair projects.

"Inspection of your windows and doors may show you that no measure of winterization would be helpful, and that replacing them may be your best long term option," he noted. "Properly insulating your home will have a large impact in areas such as crawl spaces, attached garages, the attic and above drop ceilings. Your home furnace should also be inspected and regularly maintained.  Changing the furnace air filter will aid in air flow and can greatly improve the effectiveness of your furnace. Annual service appointments can help maximize its efficiency and help curb any major issues before they become a serious problem.  It may also be of long term benefit to update the furnace or to replace the model by converting it to a more efficient fuel source, such as changing from oil burning to natural or propane gas."

Armed with a number of excellent solutions, homeowners can combat winter's dropping temperatures - and rising energy bills - while staying warm and comfortable all season long.