Cost of Owning a Home in a Cold Climate

Cost of Owning a Home in a Cold Climate

Winter is coming! If you live in the north, then you already know the chilling impact of this statement… high heating bills, endless snow shoveling, and frozen pipes. Cost of Owning a Home in a Cold Climate

Freezing cold temperatures can put a strain on a home at every level. From the first frost to the first signs of Spring, every homeowner knows that Winter takes its toll.

Front and center of the negative side effects of home ownership in a cold climate is the heating bill. Oil prices fluctuate, and if your home is heated with electricity, the cost is high no matter what the kilowatt is going for this year.

But scary heating bills aren’t the only source of pain for northern homeowners. While it’s true that heating the home is what creates the main impact on a homeowner’s budget, there are other factors that make owning a cold-climate home a major drain for a good part of the year.

Here’s a fresh look at what it costs to own a home in a cold climate. For seasoned homeowners, this can serve to provide helpful insight for making a decision about relocating during retirement or downsizing.

Want additional information? Read about the hidden cost of home ownership.

1. Heating Your Home

Recently, the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority released data on heating oil prices for the upcoming winter. At the time of their report (October 2017), the average price of a gallon of heating oil was $2.54 per gallon. That’s almost 13% higher than just one year ago. Ten years ago (the 2007-2008 season), the cost of heating a home rose 37% over the previous year for older consumers.

With increases like that, most homeowners can expect to experience some tough decision-making in the near future. Common strategies for dealing with skyrocketing heating bills include:

  1. Moving south, especially if you’re near retirement or already there
  2. Purchasing a second home in a warmer climate if you don’t have kids at home
  3. Performing a deep energy renovation in your home to reduce energy costs
  4. Considering moving to a senior living community
  5. Conserving energy: turn down the thermostat, for example

But there’s even more to consider. The AARP Public Policy Institute published data comparing the heating costs for consumers over the age of 65 throughout the United States. Seniors living in New England topped the chart, with an average of $2,639 spent in 2014. Seniors living in the Mid-Atlantic states paid the second-highest heating bills: $826 for the season.

As you can see, what you pay to heat your home in winter varies greatly by region. For older Americans on a fixed income, the difference between living in Massachusetts and living in Virginia can be roughly $1,800 per winter season.

There’s another factor in the algorithm that determines heating costs: weather. It’s obvious, but many people forget to figure temperatures into their assessment of heating a home. Colder winters can mean significantly higher heating bills. In fact, the EIA predicts the 2017-2018 winter season to be colder than last year.

2. Wear and Tear on Your Home’s Exterior

Ice on the roof, a cracked driveway, decks that collapse under the weight of heavy snow… these are just some of the exterior maintenance issues winter can bring about. When problems arise, you may be able to handle some by yourself. For others, you’ll need the services of a professional. If you’re a DIYer, you can save some money, but don’t forget the cost of purchasing supplies and maintaining the proper tools.

Even your home’s exterior paint gets a beating in cold weather. A new paint job that lasts a decade in some regions of the country may only last half as long if you live in a cold climate.

3. Your Appliances

Cold-weather appliances like oil furnaces or gas furnaces last up to 20 years. In the meantime, they’ll need to be cleaned and looked over on an annual basis to ensure proper function.

This is also a safety issue. The dangers of failing to upgrade or service your furnace range from higher energy bills (due to inefficient burning) to carbon monoxide poisoning and fires.

Even if you don’t heat your home with electricity, your electricity bill may go up too because of hot water usage. It costs more to heat water that’s coming in from pipes that run across a frozen tundra during wintertime. You’re also more likely to take longer, hotter showers and baths when it’s cold outside. Plus, it’s wear and tear on your water heater.

4. Frozen Pipes

Pipes need to be insulated and protected from freezing. However, when there’s an unusually severe cold spell that lingers, even the most seasoned homeowner may wake up to find their pipes have frozen. That’s bad on several levels:

  1. No water, of course
  2. Frozen pipes can crack and/or burst
  3. Potential for greater damage to your home
  4. Cost of fixing frozen pipes

5. Windows

If you don’t have airtight windows, you’re literally throwing money out the window with your heating bills. Drafty windows account for up to a quarter of your heating bill when they let out heat.

If the windows in your home are old or drafty, upgrading them can make a huge impact. That can run you a minimum of $150 per window with a $200 installation charge. And if your frames need to be repaired, you can tack on an additional $100 to $200 each.

Escape the Cold and the Cost

Owning a home in a winter climate is a big challenge on many levels. We haven’t even covered the cost of shoveling out your driveway, having ice buildup removed from your roof, and keeping your sidewalks free and clear so as to avoid lawsuits!

No home comes maintenance free, but there are certainly a lot of considerations for anyone who owns a home up north. Whether you’re looking to downsize, planning on retiring, or considering a senior living community, these homeownership issues can weigh heavily in your decision-making process.

Relocate to Warmer Weather

Have you considered relocating to a senior living community in a southern state? Acts Retirement-Life Communities has senior living communities in North Carolina, South Carolina, Alabama, Georgia, and Florida. What do these states have in common? High temperatures and low seasonal costs. Imagine playing golf in January, walking along sandy beaches in February, and enjoying an outdoor concert in March. Acts Retirement provides residents with resort-style living. The weather is great and the amenities are even better. Still not convinced? Read 10 reasons to spend your golden years in Florida.

You Don’t Need to Move to Stay Warm

It’s possible you love the changing seasons and look forward to the first snowfall of the year, but the annual cost and maintenance has become a burden. Acts Retirement has senior living communities in Pennsylvania, Delaware, and Maryland – embrace Jack Frost’s bite and leave additional costs and maintenance requirements behind. Your cost of living will never increase based on your physical needs or the temperature outside. Curl up by the fire, while someone else shovels the snow and worries about the electric bill.

Want to learn more about relocating to a retirement community? Read our guide to touring and choosing a retirement community.

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about the author

Kimberly Johnson

As a co-owner of Senior.com, Kimberly Johnson is passionate about providing Seniors with the resources and products to live well.  Kimberly is a seasoned caregiver to her family and breast cancer survivor.  Her father battled ALS, Lou Gehrig’s disease, for 13 months before passing.  Today Kimberly lives in Southern California near her 102 year old grandmother, widowed mother, a mentally disabled sister and second sister who is also a breast cancer survivor.  She is happily married to her husband of 22 years and they have 3 children.

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