As Winter Takes Hold, Here's How to Keep Household Expenses in Check

The chill of the winter season has settled in for most parts of the country, and many homeowners will see the unfortunate consequences in their energy bills. Here are some strategies from energy experts for keeping you warm and safe through the winter months, as well as keeping your household budget in line:
  • Start by lowering your thermostat to 68 degrees. It might be a little chillier than you like, but compensate by lighting a fire, adding an extra blanket and throwing on another layer. The difference of just one or two degrees in your thermostat setting makes a significant difference in your heating bill, says Dominion Energy.
  • Seal any air leaks. Chilly air finds its way into your home and warm air leaks out in a variety of obvious and unexpected places, such as entrances, pull-down attic stairs, light fixtures, pipes and outlets.
  • Ditto for duct work. Make sure all duct work is sealed at joints and intersections with duct sealer or silicone caulk. Ducts can be sealed using foil-backed tape or silicon caulking, recommends Dominion.
  • Make sure furnace filters are changed monthly. Optimal functioning of your furnace is critical for an efficiently heated home. It’s also the No. 1 reason for furnace breakdowns, so have your heating and cooling equipment inspected and professionally cleaned annually, or as often as the manufacturer recommends. Make sure all heating ducts are also inspected, recommends AAA. And, if you need a new furnace, you may be entitled to federal tax credits to help cover the cost.
  • Weather-strip all doors, windows and attic entryways. Take a close look at your windows and doors. If you see daylight streaming through, that means they’re in need of sealing with caulk or weather stripping. According to AAA, air leaks around doors and windows can waste as much as 30 percent of your energy use. Use door draft stoppers, weather stripping or even rolled-up towels to seal leaks. 
  • Insulate hot water pipes. Doing so can warm your water by two to four degrees and lower your heating bills, according to the U.S. Department of Energy. Such insulation is usually available in pre-slit foam pieces so it’s easy and convenient to install. This will also help pipes from freezing and bursting, helping to stave off an expensive and dangerous emergency situation.
If you’re having trouble making ends meet, talk to your energy provider about what assistance may be available, says Dominion. There are usually programs in place to help get you and your family safely through a rough patch.

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