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  • Joel P. Ambrose

Winterizing Utility Bills:Expert Advice on Little Changes that Make Big Impact

During this time of year when the weather is growing colder, homeowners who are aging in place may experience inconsistent utility bills, severely impacting the budget. There are methods to help reduce energy expenses and little changes can have a positive impact on the bottom line.

A longtime client experienced an increase of 34% in their utilities in one month and called me. She believed she needed new windows and possibly insulation to help cut her expenses. Though I would have been glad to sell her those things, she didn’t really need them at this time. I did a simple audit and made some suggestions that could help her immediately. Her increased utility expenses could be addressed with basic home maintenance. Here are five low-cost changes that reduced her utility bill over a six-month period.

According to the US Department of Energy, one of the keys to savings is a whole-house approach – looking at your home as an energy system with parts that work separately.

Change the Furnace Filter Changing the furnace filter regularly saves up to 15% on utility bills. A clogged filter causes the furnace and AC to run harder and uses more energy, also reducing the life of the unit. It is a good idea to have the furnace serviced at least once a year by a professional.

Install a Programmable Thermostat

A programmable thermostat allows for the control of settings when the homeowner is not at home, reducing energy consumption.

Check the Air Ducts for Leaks Ducts that leak heated air into unheated spaces can add hundreds of dollars a year to heating and cooling bills. Joints come apart and have to be sealed using aluminum foil HVAC tape.

Check Windows and Doors Check windows and doors for leaks, including broken caulk that can be repaired. Install weatherstrip on doors to eliminate a draft coming in, detected by feeling for air flow.

Check the Lighting in the Home Light bulbs should be LED because old incandescent bulbs use a lot of energy. Check lights in closets, on ceiling fans and in other out-of-the-way places.

Check the Water Heater Reducing the temperature on the hot water tank and flushing the tank to remove sediment will greatly improve efficiency and prolong the life of the unit. The heating element is at the bottom of the tank and if it is being blocked by sediment the water heater has to work even harder to heat the water.

By making these small changes we were able to reduce my client’s utility bill over a six-month period by almost 27% - making a big difference in her expenses going into 2023.

Joel P. Ambrose, president of HandyPro International, LLC, Farmington, Michigan, is a licensed contractor specializing in home modifications and professional handyman services. The founder, Keith Paul, is a licensed Aging in Place specialist and has more than 25 years of experience. They can be reached at 734.254.9160, or jambrose@ For more information, go to

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