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Winter is coming (if it hasn’t already arrived), and with it come lower temperatures outside and higher bills at home.

Fortunately, there are a few things you can do that will help you save big on your heating bills, many of them for free.

These tips will help you on your heating costs – without a huge investment of time or money.

1. Turn Down the Heat

With space heating accounting for about 40 percent of the average household’s energy consumption (or about 63 percent of natural gas consumption), no matter what size of your home or apartment, it’s one of the biggest expenses that you have to cover during the winter. It may sound obvious, but it’s true: the simplest, and most effective, thing you can do to keep your heating costs to a minimum is to simply lower the temperature on your thermostat. Each degree lowered during the heating season represents between one and three percent savings on your heating bill.

Not sure that you can manage a cooler home when the temperatures drop? Try the one degree method – gradually changing the temperature will help you save money without noticing that you’re using less heating.

2. Update Your Wardrobe

Embrace sweater weather in the winter, and stay cozy both indoors and outdoors – no need for turning on the heating!

Not a fan of bulky clothes? Time to rock the long johns – according to some, wearing one layer of thermal long underwear allows you to turn down the thermostat by at least seven degrees Fahrenheit, saving up to 40 percent on space heating energy.

Finally, consider investing in a pair of slippers. Keeping those toes toasty will go a long way towards improving your overall warmth and comfort.

3. Get With the Program

If you don’t have one already, install and use a programmable thermostat. Set the temperature down by 10 to 15 degrees Fahrenheit at night and during the day when you’ll be out of the house – you could save around 10 percent a year on your heating/cooling bills! The US Department of Energy has some great tips on how to operate your thermostat efficiently

4. Stay Out of Hot Water

After space heaters/furnaces, water heaters are typically the second-highest energy consuming appliances in the home, representing about 18 percent of the energy consumed in your home(http://energy.gov/energysaver/fall-and-winter-energy-saving-tips). Turning down the temperature of your water heater saves energy by reducing standby losses (the heat lost from the water heater into the rest of the room) and operating costs (as the heater doesn’t need to work as hard to reach the desired temperatures).

Many water heaters are automatically set to 140 degrees Fahrenheit, which according to ENERGY STAR can waste anywhere from $36 to $61 annually in standby heat losses and more than $400 in demand losses. Turning your water heater down to 120 degrees Fahrenheit will save you energy and money, and is still hot enough for your appliances that use hot water (such as your dishwasher or washing machine). What’s more, reducing the temperature is actually better for your water heater and pipes, as it slows mineral buildup and corrosion. If you have small children it’s also a good idea to turn down your water heater in order to reduce the risk of scalding.

5. Go With the Flow

Improving air circulation throughout your home can go a long way in terms of improving your comfort and reducing your need for heating. If you have ceiling fans, make sure they’re set to rotate clockwise during the winter. This will help create a gentle updraft, which will force warm air near the ceiling down into the rest of the room.

6. Become a Draft Dodger

Reducing drafts can represent energy savings of 5 to 30 percent, according to the US Department of Energy. Common drafty spots are electrical outlets, switch plates, door and window frames, electrical and gas service entrances, baseboards, weather stripping around doors, fireplace dampers, attic hatches, wall- or window-mounted air conditioners, cable TV and phone lines, where dryer vents pass through walls, and vents and fans. You can do a visual inspection, or go one step further and perform your own building pressurization test. Once you’ve identified drafty areas, check out the next tip for how to fix them.

7. Seal It Up

If you’re heating a drafty home, you might as well be throwing money away. Put caulking around door frames and weather-stripping around any doors and/or windows that don’t close tightly. Use caulking for stationary components (such as windows that don’t open), and use weather-stripping for moveable components (doors or operable windows).

Extra tip: If you embark on a caulking project, make sure to do so on a dry day when the outdoor temperature is above 45 degrees Fahrenheit. Warmer temperatures are necessary so that the caulk sets properly, and low humidity will prevent cracks from swelling with moisture.

Bonus Tip: Look for Help

If you are having trouble with your heating bill, you may be eligible for help. The Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) is a federal program designed to help low income families with their energy costs. Check with your power and/or gas utility to find out if you qualify.

Many utilities also offer various programs to help encourage people to make energy efficiency upgrades. If you are in the market for a new electrical appliance or heating equipment, make sure to check with your utility to see if they offer rebates for upgrades to ENERGY STAR models. Your utility may also offer free recycling for your old appliances, saving you time and the environment!

There you have it. With just a few changes to your habits and a couple of targeted improvements to your home’s energy efficiency, you could save at least $100 on heating costs this winter!

Are you trying to cut down on your heating costs? What are your favorite tips for cooling your heating bill? Share in the comments below!

About the Author:
Hilary writes for callmepower.com, an energy comparison website that helps people save money on their electricity and gas supply.

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