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Keeping winter energy bills in check

Even though this winter is the coldest in several years, you don't have to sit by and watch energy costs climb. It's easy to take a proactive approach and trim every possible dollar from your energy bill.

The size and efficiency of heating equipment, condition of your home's insulation/weatherization and living habits of the occupants have the greatest influence on energy bills. Concentrate on these areas for the most savings.

Try these easy tips to help reduce winter energy use. Many require either no or little up-front cost.

No Cost

· Turn the thermostat down. Each degree lower saves 3 to 5 percent in heating costs.

· Put on extra clothes. A light sweater, sweatshirt or heavier socks worn indoors make you feel warmer.

· Lower the thermostat at night and keep warm with an extra blanket.

· Make sure heating vents are not covered by rugs or furniture.

· Check to see if the fireplace damper is closed.

· Cut down on hot water use. Don't leave the faucet running while shaving or let the shower run with no one in it. Run dishwashers only with full loads. Wash clothes in cold water if possible.

Low Cost

· Regularly change the heating system's filter.

· Re-caulk cracks around windows and doors.

· Replace torn or missing weather stripping around windows and doors.

· Cover attic stairs and whole-house fans with specially made covers or old quilts and blankets.

· Replace broken or missing window locks. Window locks pull sashes together to keep out cold air.

· Cover single pane windows with window film.

· Insulate hot water pipes with easy-to-install pre-formed pipe insulation.

· Fix hot water leaks and dripping faucets.

· Wrap the water heater with an insulating jacket.

· Replace old-fashion incandescent bulbs with compact fluorescents.

Moderate Cost

· Install a programmable thermostat to automatically drop the temperature while you're at work or sleeping.

· Have the heating system tuned up by a licensed contractor.

· Use a well-insulated cover on spas and hot tubs.

Higher Cost

· Add attic and floor insulation.

· Install storm windows over single pane windows.

· Replace old heating equipment with high efficiency heat pumps.

To learn more about saving energy, go to waltonemc.com/energysolutions. You'll find tips, articles and calculators that will help you cut home energy bills.

Greg Brooks is the communications coordinator for Walton EMC.