It’s once again time to get ready for colder weather, snow and, of course, higher heating costs.

While a rise in winter heating bills are expected, there are some practical and affordable things you can do to keep costs under control. The key is to act now before the cold air hits. This winter, you may want to do the following:

  • Only heat the areas you use.  Don’t waste heat in areas that don’t need it. Close off the ducts to rooms that are not used, or seldom used, during winter months. This allows a greater amount of heat to be spread where it is needed most.
  • Keep the cold air out. Stopping cold air from entering a heated home is a simple solution to reducing heating costs. Be sure to replace worn weather stripping, adjust door thresholds, and seal cracks around doors, windows and electrical. Also remember to insulate around your attic trap and, when it’s not in use, keep your fireplace damper closed.
  • Clear the area around vents. If your heating vents are blocked by rugs, furniture, etc., heated air will not circulate properly.
  • Run your thermostat like clockwork. Programmable thermostats, which now run as little as $25, allow you keep your home cooler when you’re not there. According to the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy, you can save 3 percent on your heating bill for every degree that you set back your thermostat.
  • Circulate the air.  Ceiling fans aren’t just for cooling off in the summer; they help keep your home warm in the winter too. When the warm air from your heater rises, it gets trapped near the ceiling.  By setting your ceiling fan to rotate slowly in a clockwise fashion, the air will circulate up and force warm air downward toward your living space.
  • Lower the temperature of your water. Changing the temperate of your water heater from the standard 140 degrees to between 110-120 degrees will reduce energy costs without much of a noticeable difference. Also consider getting a water-efficient shower head, which can use 25-50 percent less hot water with little notice to the user.
  • Use your curtains wisely.  Open blinds and curtains during the day to let the sun naturally warm your house, then make sure and close them at night to help the room retain heat. Using insulated curtains can also help reduce drafts and heat loss.
  • Get your furnace a checkup.  Make an appointment to have your furnace professionally serviced and cleaned to make sure it’s ready for the winter.  While you’re at it, change the filter.

Most importantly, don’t let the implementation of these tasks overwhelm you.  Divide up the duties among family members and, with younger children, considering using the exercise as an energy efficiency teaching opportunity that you can also be fun. Also, remember to not only prepare for the winter, but take some time to enjoy the season, too.

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