What a difference a year makes - sounds familiar but just think about the weather we were all "enjoying" a year ago. Most of us had record snows, extremely cold temperatures and all in all, a really terrible winter. And then it didn't get any better, it went right into an unsettled spring with torrential rains and flooding, tornadoes all over, even in areas that seldom see them. Then into summer with hurricanes - the first major to go the whole way up the east coast - and tropical storms and thunderstorms with hail and damaging winds galore.
I was thinking earlier today about how chilly it was outside and then I thought back to last year. Yes, it is a little chilly, but I'll take the weather so far in 12 over any we had in 11. Thinking about weather gets me thinking about energy bills. It sounds like we are all going to get a break if we are using natural gas this year, even electricity that is generated from natural gas is to be cheaper. But not heating oil for sure, and not most electricity, so energy costs are still a big chunk of most of our household budgets and one of if not the biggest unknown to plan for. Most of your other costs are pretty much fixed, but heating and cooling costs can sneak up and take a major bite out of your budget unexpectedly.
The best way I know to combat that fear is to insulate your house to the best of your ability. Reflective insulation added to good quality levels of traditional batten or foam is a great start. Then evaluate your windows and doors for air tightness and high quality energy saving glass options and energy performance. Make sure the frames are strong and secure - I highly recommend vinyl frames -as they are impervious to almost all the elements can throw at them. Then do the visual check of all the exterior walls for any cracks or holes and get them sealed up tight.
If you have top quality high performance windows and doors, maximum insulation values, and the house sealed up tight - you can then minimize the hits you will get in the future on energy costs forever.