Three Ways to Lower Winter Heating Bills

Adjusting the thermostatPunxsutawney Phil may have predicted an early spring, but with all due respect to the Groundhog's legend, chances are that most of us will be seeing a few more rounds of heating bills. Keeping your home comfortable this time of year isn't cheap, but there are things you can do to make those utility statements a little less painful to open. Here are three easy ways to lower heating bills.

1. Make the Most of Your Programmable Thermostat

You can cut heating bills by as much as 10% if you set your programmable thermostat to turn up the heat when you need it and down when you don't. Punch in a routine that includes a lower temperature when your home is empty and a return to the comfort zone right before everyone's home from work and school. The target temperature can slide down again by 5 degrees to 10 degrees at bedtime, and then warm up just before you wake.2. Improve Seals Around Windows and Doors

If you never had a chance to seal leaks and gaps way back before winter even arrived, there's still time to make a difference and keep precious energy dollars from going out your doors and windows. Get an easy-to-use silicone caulk and apply it around windows, doors, electrical outlets and other air escapes. Silicone-based caulk won't shrink or crack, and it provides a strong seal against moisture and other winter elements. Further improve a drafty door by adding a door sweep and installing weather stripping around the perimeter. For super drafty windows, use weather-stripping caulk to temporarily seal windows from the inside. Weather-stripping caulk is a temporary product that can be easily peeled off in the spring.

3. Change Air Filters

Help your heating system to work smarter rather than harder by changing air filters. Dirty filters slow air flow, meaning more effort and energy expended (and wasted) by heating components. Plus, buildup of dirt and dust can lead to expensive mechanical maintenance later on. You'll save money in several ways and reduce allergens by checking air filters monthly and being vigilant during high-use seasons like this one.

These three simple chores will improve the quality and affordability of home comfort now, and also make a difference when your AC is working overtime during the summer. So remember to make the rounds again ─ with air filter changes in the meantime ─ after spring has sprung.

Tom Kraeutler delivers energy saving tips and more each week as host of The Money Pit, a nationally syndicated home improvement radio program. He is also AOL's Home Improvement Editor and author of "My Home, My Money Pit: Your Guide to Every Home Improvement Adventure."

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