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Take the chill out of winter bills

Take simple steps now to minimize higher winter bills.

Between holiday houseguests and shorter, colder days, electric bills tend to climb in the winter. Read on for ways to save energy when the temperature drops. 

Lower your thermostat 
Lower your thermostat to 68 degrees (or lower, if you can handle it). If you decrease the temperature by just two degrees, you can save up to five percent on heating costs. Consider a programmable thermostat that you can set to automatically lower the temperature when you are away from home and then increase it just before you return.

Reduce hot water temperature
Heating water accounts for 12 percent of the average home’s energy use. Set your water heater’s thermostat to 120 degrees or lower—that’s usually sufficient for a household’s hot-water needs. Also, if you’ve had your water heater for more than 12 years, you might want to consider replacing it with a more energy efficient model.

Seal and insulate
This is the best way to keep heat in and air out. Areas that may need sealing include corners, cracks, door frames, and windows.

Replace older appliances
Consider replacing old appliances, doors, and windows with ENERGY STAR-rated models: You can save about 15 percent of your normal energy use with these appliances and get better insulation on doors and windows for the price you pay. ENERGY STAR-rated items meet special efficiency standards set by the federal government. 

Adjust blinds and curtains
Keep them open to let in sunlight during the day, and closed at night to keep heat inside and protect from drafts. 

Free your vents 
HVAC (heating, ventilation, and air conditioning) systems will have to work twice as hard if vents are blocked by rugs, furniture, or doors. Keep vents clear for proper air flow. 

Keep food cool
Don’t make your fridge work too hard. A temperature set between 34 and 37 degrees Fahrenheit is usually sufficient.

A special holiday tip 
Use LED lights to decorate. They’re up to 75 percent more energy efficient than traditional incandescent lights and last much longer—but check for an ENERGY-STAR rating before you buy.

**This article appeared in the November, 2013 PowerLines newsletter.