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By Ashley Marcin/Wise Bread
November 7, 2014

There’s snow in the forecast. As much as I’d like to ignore all the fallen leaves in our backyard and gloss over the shorter daylight hours, the fact remains: Winter is upon us.

We’re in a new-to-us home this year, so how much our heating might cost is a wildcard. Thankfully, we’ve lined up some defenses to keep our energy bills as low as they can be. And these simple tips are universally helpful whether you live in a 1960s ranch or an 1880s Victorian.

1. Tame Drafts

The best way to keep the warm air in is to make sure it isn’t flowing out. Take a tour around your home and examine windows and doors for any drafts. Our front door had a sizable gap at its base, so we installed weatherstripping and it took care of the cold air problem immediately.

There are many ways to fill in voids, including stripping, insulator kits, foam, silicone, etc. If you’re in an apartment or just want a temporary fix, you can also use one of those draft guards. Here’s a DIY tutorial using an old pair of tights, polyfill, and only a few stitches.

2. Lower the Thermostat

How low can you go on your thermostat this winter? Start just one degree and you could save up to 5% (or around $10 per day) on your overall heating bill according to an analysis released by EnergyHub in 2012. The EPA recommends settings on 70 degrees during the eight hours most people are home turning it down to 62 degrees for the 16 hours when people are away or sleeping. And if you can get away with keeping your thermostat on lower (we keep ours on 67 during the day), that’s great, too. Using a programmable thermostat also helps you save by taking out the manual temperature changing.

3. Cover Yourself

Feeling nervous about taking the plunge? Keeping comfortable at lower thermostat levels isn’t difficult. Wear more clothing! Long sleeves, pants, thick socks, and layers are the fashion statements in our house during the winter. We also keep a fleece blanket on the couch to ward off chills in the evening. Our beds are topped with flannel sheets and wool covers for the nights when our thermostat is at its lowest setting. You don’t want to be frigid all season long, but some common sense is employed here.

4. Zone It Out

My family lives in a 4-bedroom home, but we’re currently only using two of those bedrooms on a daily basis. So, we’ve closed the hot air vents in those rooms to redirect the heating to the spaces we’re living in and keep the doors shut most hours of the day. If you have baseboard heating, see if there’s a localized switch in your room so you can turn it off and shut the door. The savings here are hard to quantify because so many factors are involved (room size, etc.), however — the less area to heat, the more money that stays in your pockets.

5. Use Curtains

During the day, take advantage of the sun’s rays by opening your curtains to let the light in. Even on the coldest days you’ll get a boost, especially with those south-facing windows in the afternoon rays. Then in the evening, close your curtains to help keep the heat indoors. If your windows are bare (or you only have sheers), consider purchasing some insulated curtains, which protect your home from heat loss through conduction, infiltration, convection, and radiation. They come in all colors and patterns, too!

6. Service Your Furnace

It’s one of those annoying home maintenance tasks you don’t think you should need to do, but getting your furnace cleaned and evaluated each year can help save you cash and unexpected breakdowns. (It’s also a safety thing, as furnaces can leak carbon monoxide into your home without your knowledge.) You’ll also need to change out the filter at least once per season — or whenever it’s dirty — to keep everything flowing as it should. Check your local coupon books to see if any HVAC providers are offering promotions.

7. Add Insulation

If your house is still feeling quite cold, take a trip to your attic to assess the insulation situation. In our last home, we were surprised to find only a few inches of the stuff keeping our heat from flowing out the roof. (Insulation acts like a hat does on your body.) We added a thick fiberglass roll to the entire attic ourselves and could tell the difference in our second floor level almost immediately. How much insulation you add and where you add it is going to depend on your home. If you plan to stay there for quite a while, it certainly makes sense to evaluate and correct any issues that might cost you big dollars as the years go on.

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