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10 Secrets of People with Low Energy Bills

Heating costs drive utility bills through the roof in wintertime, but there are a few ways you can take control of your home's energy consumption this season. Lots of people keep their energy bills low in the winter — here's how they do it.

  1. Seal the gaps. Cracks and gaps around windows and doors are like robbers that steal your warm air. Eliminate drafts by sealing these gaps with caulk, weather stripping or spray foam.

  2. Program your thermostat. Setting your thermostat 7 to 10 degrees lower can save you up to 10 percent on heating costs over the course of a year. You can also use your programmable thermostat to set a heating schedule that heats your home more when you're home, and less while you're away (or asleep) to avoid precious heating dollars going to waste.

  3. Turn down your water heater. Many households keep their water heater set way higher than they need to be. Anything higher than 120 degrees Fahrenheit is unnecessary, and every 10-degree reduction can trim your bill by up to 5 percent.

  4. Reverse your fan. Ceiling fans rotate clockwise in summer, which creates a cooling breeze. But in winter, you should set your ceiling fans to spin counter-clockwise (most models have a switch that reverses the rotation) to push heated air from up near the ceiling down into your living space.

  5. Change furnace filters. The filters in your furnace should be changed every one to three months or whenever they get dirty. Clogged filters reduce the efficiency of your heating system by forcing your furnace to work extra hard to push air through.

  6. Insulate your water heater. Use an insulating jacket to keep heat from escaping your water heater. You can also use insulated pipe sleeves to prevent heat loss as hot water travels through your plumbing system.

  7. Use the sun. On sunny days, opening up all the curtains and blinds in your house will create a "greenhouse" effect that warms your house no matter how cold it is outside. At night, do the opposite — close up all the blinds to help keep the heat sealed inside.

  8. Insulate attics and basements. These rooms are often the most poorly-insulated areas in the home and are responsible for a lot of heat loss. Improve efficiency by adding insulation to your basement and attic.

  9. Close up the fireplace. There's nothing more comforting in winter than a warm, crackling fire, but fireplaces are actually very inefficient, sucking heated air up through the chimney and allowing cold air to enter in the opposite direction. Always keep the damper closed when the fireplace is not in use, and turn down the thermostat by a few degrees when you do have a fire.

  10. Bundle up. It might seem obvious, but humans have been bundling up to keep warm for thousands of years because it works. Throw on a sweater and a pair of slippers, and you might be able to set your thermostat 5 degrees cooler and not even notice.

Just because it's cold outside doesn't mean you have to spend a fortune to keep your house warm. Use these energy-saving secrets to keep your energy costs under control this year.

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