Western Stark County turns up the heat

Overnight temperatures dropped into the 40s during the weekend, and a fall chill seems to have seeped into the air.
It’s time to get out the sweaters and flannel pajamas, and think about turning on the heat and adjusting the thermostat.
This week, highs are expected to stay in the 60s with lows in the 40s, according to the National Weather Service.  
If this winter is as severe as last winter, homeowners may be in for high home energy costs. But, meteorologists have said it’s too early to tell whether El Nino conditions will develop. Since March, they’ve been watching a warming of the water off the coast of Peru. So there’s still a chance we may have a mild winter in Northeast Ohio.
Regardless of how low the mercury drops, people can take steps to keep heating bills as low as possible this season.
Most people heat their homes with furnaces or boilers, according to the U.S. Department of Energy. Other heating options include wood and pellet heaters, active solar heating, and heat pumps.
A combination of proper insulation, air sealing, and energy-efficient windows and doors will help keep you comfortable and keep costs down.
Derek Shanklin, who owns Shanklin Heating & Air Conditioning with his brother, Kip, in Tuscarawas Township, said natural gas and electrical heating systems are the most affordable this winter and he offers some tips for saving high heating costs this season:
• Keep a clean air filter and make sure your system has the correct type of air filter.
• Have your heating system serviced. Having your heater cleaned and checked will make sure it’s running at 100 percent performance.
• Have an accurate thermostat — either programmable or nonprogrammable.
What happens if you never change your air filter?
“It’ll still heat your house just fine but you’ll be using more gas you won’t need to be using,” he said.
Shanklin said he gets calls about once a week from people wanting to change their heating systems to natural gas. He suggested people call a gas provider in the area to see if they provide gas close to your house.     
Natural gas is cheaper than oil and propane, Shanklin said, but electrical also is economical.
“It’s always good to see if natural gas is available,” he said. “If people can get natural gas at your home do it.”
According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, residential electricity prices have risen in most states so far this year, compared with the same period in 2013. EIA expects the U.S. residential price to average 12.5 cents per kilowatt-hour in 2014, which is 3.1 percent higher than the average last year.
Shanklin said that once Northeast Ohio hits 32 to 35 degrees at night, that’s when people start kicking on their furnaces.
According to the office of the Ohio Consumers’ Council, a solar system can be expensive — a system costs on average between $20,000 and $35,000 — but the industry is growing and as prices fall, demand increases, and financial incentives continue. That makes solar power a feasible investment that saves money in the long run.
The non-profit Green Energy Ohio reports that incorporating passive solar designs such as large south-facing windows and building materials that absorb and slowly release the sun’s heat, can reduce heating bills as much as 50 percent.
Reach Christina at 330-775-1133
or christina.mccune@indeonline.com.