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By Anum Yoon / Len Penzo dot Com
February 16, 2016
Melissa Ross—Getty Images

Saving on bills during the winter is easier than many think. While some may claim substantial savings can only occur after an entire heating system revamping or a lofty project, homeowners can do many fairly simple and straightforward tasks each winter to stay ahead of their utility bills.

Change Your Air Filter

Many homeowners neglect to change their air filter, but it should be changed monthly. A dirty filter means both less clean air in your home and decreased efficiency as your heater wastes more energy while providing less heat. Make changing your HVAC filter monthly a habit, in addition to ensuring that there are no obstructions in front of any heating vents.

Embrace Insulation

Insulating your home isn’t expensive and it can make a big difference on heating efficiency. Your home’s draftiness is easy to test. On a windy day, place candles around potential problem areas — like window panes or door cracks — and if the candle flame dances or extinguishes, a void needs to be caulked up. The less cold air gets into your home, the less you’ll have to rely on your heat. Make sure not to neglect insulating your water heater and pipes as well, as freezing damage to those can be extremely costly.

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Dress Warmly

Especially if your home is caulked properly, you can save money by running the heat for a few hours before turning it off and adjusting your clothing accordingly. In a properly insulated home the heat will linger for some time, while an extra sweater or layer can compensate for the slight decrease in temperature. An electric blanket is also a money-saving option.

Make Your Living Space Smaller

If you live in a larger space, strive to isolate the heat to areas you’ll be using the most. For instance, if you have a spare bedroom or other rooms that are rarely used, close their doors and don’t heat them if possible. This flexibility is easier with a thermostat, which leads us to:

Consider a Thermostat

EnergyStar says that a programmable thermostat can save a typical single-family home around $180 per year in energy costs, mostly because the customization options are highly useful in saving energy. You can time the usage of your heat, opting to shut heat off while you’re at work and turn it on automatically before you get home, so your house is warm when you arrive but doesn’t waste energy all day. Some thermostats allow for individualized room control, which is another plus for efficiency.

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Highlight Natural Light

Sunlight can be plenty strong even during the winter, so take advantage of any natural light opportunities your home has. Keep the shades open to allow sunlight during the day while shutting them at night. Sunlight’s mood-lifting benefits are certainly beneficial during the grey winter months as well.

Use Foam Gaskets for Light Switches and Outlets

Not many people know that foam gaskets are a great way to prevent drafts coming from light switches or outlets. Gaskets are cheap, too, even before you take a lowered heating bill into account. Simply insert these into your switches and outlets along with caulking any problem areas near windows and doors to make your home fully secure for the winter. Weather-stripping to prevent air leakage under doors is another option.

Evaluate Your Heating Methods

Consider the specific tools and products your home relies on for heating, particularly given recent events like plunging oil prices. For instance, households relying on heating oil have experienced ample savings this winter due to oil’s decline. Adopting a currently cheap method is certainly something to consider.

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Speak With Your Utility Company

Some utility companies provide free energy efficiency audits. When combined with these tips, the audits should provide you with comprehensive information on energy costs and any heating efficiency issues, including where they are and how you can resolve them. Consulting your utility company or an expert in the field is a possibility to consider you still have issues after following these tips.

The various tips above should significantly aid in cutting back bills during the winter by making your home more efficient at transferring and retaining heat.