Consumers can take steps now to prepare for the winter and conserve energy. “It’s November — there’s still time to get ready,” Mr. Wolfe said. Heating contractors are typically less busy right now, he said, before temperatures plummet.
The most widely recommended step: Schedule a professional checkup of your heating system. A tuneup is advisable because dirty components reduce airflow, blunting performance and possibly damaging the system, according to ASHRAE, a professional association of heating and cooling professionals. A tuneup typically costs $200 or more, but some utilities cover the cost.
Anthony Carrino, a contractor and designer known for hosting home improvement shows on television and online, including TheBuild.tv, suggests holding your hands in front of doors and windows to detect drafts, and adding weatherstripping or insulation to reduce heat loss. But, he said, be honest about your home repair skills. Adding insulation to reduce drafts around windows is a good idea, but unless you’re confident you can remove and reinstall the window trim — and have it look presentable — it’s best to call a professional, he said.
If your home has a lot of windows, particularly older ones, you may be losing energy through the glass. One easy fix, he said, is to stick clear plastic Bubble Wrap — the kind used to ship packages — over the window panes. (Spray the glass with water first so the wrap sticks.) It won’t look great, he conceded, but it will save you money.
“Sometimes,” Mr. Carrino said, “you have to take ‘pretty’ off the table for a few months.”
You could consider replacing an old heating system with a more efficient model. The costs range from $4,000 to $7,000 for a gas furnace and from $5,500 to $40,000 or more for some heat pump systems, according to estimates provided by contractors in western and central New York State.
States and utilities offer an array of rebate programs that can help cover the cost. One example: Mass Save, a program administered by gas and electric utilities serving homes in Massachusetts, offers customers rebates of up to $15,000 for replacing older systems with electric heat pumps, which provide highly efficient cooling and heating. (The Wirecutter, The New York Times’s product review affiliate, offers a shopping guide to heat pumps.)
If your heating system is failing, you may want to wait to replace it, Mr. Wolfe said. Generous rebates for home energy improvements, as well as expanded federal energy-efficiency tax credits, will become available in 2023 as part of the Inflation Reduction Act.