If you have noticed a chill in the air lately, then you may also be giving your home’s heating system some sideways glances.  Is it going to be good enough?  When was the last time it was serviced?  And of course- the question everyone loves- how much is it going to cost me this time? 

Here are some tips to keep that bill down, while keeping your house at an adequate level of toasty-warmness in the process.fore we get to the “fun” (read: exhausting) stuff, let’s focus on the simple things one can do to keep a home heated and as draft-free as possible.

The first tip is as easy to do yourself as it is to forget: change the filter of your heating system regularly!  The website suggests replacing your filter once a month. 

If that sounds a bit heavy on the waste factor, you could consider the advice of and buy a re-usable electrostatic filter that need only be cleaned and placed back where it was.  Either way, keeping up with this will reduce the buildup of gunk that’s only going to make it harder for your heating system to do its job.

While we’re still on the simple stuff, in the article “19 Easy Home Winterization Projects” on the Popular Mechanics website, they present an easy solution for preventing drafts that- in their words- “can waste 5% to 30% of your energy use.”  The solution is the “draft snake,” and it’s so comically simple you may have used one without even knowing it.  Basically, roll up a towel and place it cram it under a drafty door.  Bam, energy saved!  The Popular Mechanics website cattily suggests adding some googley eyes to make it more aesthetically pleasing; so hey, if you’re the crafty type feel free to have some fun with it!

Unfortunately, not every solution for maximizing your winter heating is easy; they are, however, no less important.  One that you won’t need to call a professional for (unless you’re afraid of heights, perhaps) is the always enjoyable task of cleaning your gutters. 

The real estate section of stresses the importance of scraping and hosing them out to prevent the buildup of ice, which could potentially seep cold water into your house as it melts.  They also suggest looking for “leaks or misaligned pipes” while you’re up there, and ensuring that the downspout is pointed in a direction that carries the water safely away from your house, where it can’t cause damage that could become costly over time.

Of course, in the winter you’re also going to want to make sure that nothing comes between you and a good, hot shower.  The best way to ensure this doesn’t happen is to have a hot water heater that’s properly insulated. recommends checking if your water heater has “insulation with an R-value of at least 24.”  If it is not, they recommend insulating the heater yourself, quoting benefits such as a reduce in “standby heat losses” of as much as nearly fifty percent, which could cut down roughly one-tenth of the price of what you’re paying to keep your water heated. 

This is a cheap fix that’s worth researching, and while you’re at it, Popular Mechanics suggests cranking your water heater’s temperature down to 120 degrees Fahrenheit from the standard 140.  Not only would this difference be hardly noticeable, but it could chop another 10 percent off the cost of your heat.

Really, the best defense against winter weather (and the heating costs that come with it) is having a healthy amount of foresight.  Thinking ahead and doing little things to potentially lessen your energy bill can pay off big time once the bills start rolling in.  For example, getting your duct system checked for potential problems could, according to Popular Mechanics, “save the average American home up to $140 annually.”  They also recommend insulating windows and pipes, which will also cut down considerably on heating costs. 

When it comes to insulating pipes though, keep in mind that not all of them may need it.  Popular Mechanics suggests that you “check to see which pipes are warm to the touch,” as these will be the ones in need of insulation.  They even mention that the federal government may partially reimburse you for the cost of doing this; “Insulation shopping” may not sound like the most fun day out, but with that in mind as well as the potential savings, it’s a pretty hard bit of preparation to ignore. 

Scraping gutters and cleaning filters is one thing, but sometimes the best money saver is simply thinking ahead!

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