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Staying warm while managing energy costs can be difficult, especially when the mercury dips near zero, as it has this week. But there are simple steps homeowners and renters can take to cut down on heating costs during winter. Other steps can bring sizable energy savings year-round.
• It's always important to have heating systems checked by a qualified technician each season, and even though we're in the depths of winter, it's not too late. Minor adjustments can more than pay for the cost of a service call.
• Change air filters every month. Dirty filters can increase operating costs.
• Make sure heat registers and vents are not blocked by draperies, furniture or rugs. Vents should also be cleaned regularly with a vacuum or a broom. Check ductwork to ensure it's well insulated.
• Keep thermostats at the lowest comfortable setting. If you are going to be away for several days, turn the thermostat to a lower setting, but not to "off."
• Consider investing in a programmable thermostat, which some studies show can save as much as 20 to 30 percent on heating or cooling costs by allowing for multiple daily settings. They also eliminate daily adjustments when leaving home. All of us forget sometimes.
• Make sure your home is adequately insulated. Little or no insulation in areas such as attics, exterior walls or floors above cold spaces makes it easier for cold air to infiltrate homes. Adding insulation can cut energy bills dramatically.
• Weather-stripping around doors and windows and sealing cracks and crevices is also important. It's a good idea to weather-strip between heated and unheated areas such as garages, basements and attic openings.
• Consider removing window air conditioning units during winter months to prevent heat from escaping. If not, inexpensive covers can help cut down on drafts.
• Always make sure fireplace dampers seal tightly and remain closed except when a fire is burning or smoldering in the fireplace.
One place where many of us make a difference in your home is through our water heater. By keeping the water heater at 120 degrees, energy bills will be kept to a minimum.
"Many people never look at their home's water heater but by making a slight adjustment, residents can save a significant amount of money," said IDEM Commissioner Thomas Easterly.
To lower energy costs even further, consider investing in a tankless water heater. This technology heats water on demand, eliminating cold showers and the energy needed to keep warmed water on stand-by.
Cost savings can also be obtained by insulating water heaters with insulation with at least an R-6 rating.
• Take advantage of natural solar heat. On sunny days, leave draperies open to allow the sun's rays to work for you. Also, ceiling fans help keep us comfortable in winter as well as summer.
Reversing the direction of the blades pushes warm air down into the room. Fans should turn counter-clockwise in the summer and clockwise in the winter.