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Winter ready
Conservation groups offer tips to lower energy costs in cold months

LAWRENCEVILLE - Energy independence has been an American topic of interest for nearly 40 years. With winter quickly approaching and with the country in the midst of an economic downturn, rising energy costs are naturally on people's minds.

According to the U.S. Department of Energy, the average American household spends about $1,800 per year on home energy. For this reason, Duluth's Impact Group - a nonprofit community development corporation that focuses on housing services - is offering some tips to assist families with reducing energy costs while at the same time making their homes more energy efficient.

For starters, said Impact's Tom Enright in an e-mail, homeowners should monitor their heating and cooling systems.

"Be sure to replace the filters once a month to maintain an adequate and clean air flow, which will in turn reduce energy costs," Enright said. "And keep registers and vents free of dust, dirt and other blockages. If you have rooms that are not used often, keep the registers and doors closed because doing so will save your system from heating or cooling unused rooms."

Impact also recommended adding or replacing insulation, which can save households up to 30 percent on a heating bill, installing ceiling fans to evenly distribute air and also adding weather stripping or caulk around windows and doors. The group also advocates for Energy Star products when it comes to home appliances.

According to the Alliance to Save Energy, households that replace existing equipment with Energy Star labeled products can cut their annual energy bills by as much as $450 per year.

Storm windows and doors can also help in reducing energy costs by serving as a barrier to the outdoors.

Finally, be sure to watch where the thermostat is set. Energy experts recommend a thermostat set to 78 in the warm season and 72 in the cooler months.

The Alliance to Save Energy said that for each degree homeowners lower their thermostat, they can save up to 5 percent on the heating portion of their energy bill.