Financial Tip of the Week from the Iowa Bankers Association:
As old man winter continues to bear down on Iowa, finding ways to save on heating costs makes good sense and is an excellent way to start cutting costs in the New Year. Whether you heat your home with oil, natural gas or electricity, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), offers the following tips to help you save money and stay warm:
· Conduct an energy audit to help detect waste and gauge efficiency of your current heating system. The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) offers instructions at www.homeenergysaver.lbl.gov.
· Ask your utility company about a budget billing plan to protect against sudden or unexpected price increases.
· Schedule an annual tune-up for your furnace, heat pump or boiler. Your utility company may offer this service.
· Install a programmable thermostat that will automatically lower nighttime temperatures.
· When you shop for a new furnace, boiler, heat pump, water heater or other home appliance, consider purchasing a high-efficiency model. Although some energy-efficient appliances cost more than other models, their lower operating costs could save you money in the long run.
· Clean or replace filters on forced-air furnaces and heat pumps, and vacuum air vents, baseboard heaters and radiators regularly.
· Wrap your hot water heater in an insulating jacket. A water heater needs extra insulation if it's warm to the touch.
· Use caulking or weather-stripping to seal air leaks around windows and doors and holes around plumbing and heating pipes. Check existing caulking and weather-stripping for gaps or cracks.
· Close the doors to rooms you don't use regularly.
· Contact your provider if you're living on a fixed income and have trouble paying rising utility bills. They may have assistance plans to help you make your payments. Some state and local governments offer similar services.
Don't Get Burned
The FTC warns that when energy prices go up, so does advertising for a host of energy-saving products and services—some legitimate, but others overpriced or just plain bogus. Be wary of devices, gadgets and energy-saving products that promise drastic reductions in home heating costs or extreme energy savings. Try to get independent information to verify a product's performance claims.
Be wary of uninvited door-to-door sales calls, and stop anyone making a high-pressure sales pitch for furnaces, windows, roofing, siding or other home-improvement products. To make sure a contractor is licensed and reputable, ask friends and neighbors for referrals, ask the contractor for customer references and check out potential contractors with the Better Business Bureau and other state and local consumer protection officials. The FTC's Cooling-Off Rule gives you three business days to cancel a contract if you sign it in your home or at a location other than the contractor's permanent place of business.
These tips are provided by the Iowa Bankers Association (IBA), representing banks and thrifts in the state. The IBA serves it members by providing legislative advocacy, training, regulatory compliance and other services designed to enhance the ability of banks to serve their communities. Learn more at www.iowabankers.com.