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Keeping your home comfortable without breaking the bank

Follow these winter tips to save energy and money.

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Don’t jack up your thermostat. The Department of Energy recommends keeping the thermostat at 68 degrees while you’re awake and at home. But when you’re asleep or away, you can turn it lower. Our friends at the Citizens Utility Board in Minnesota, citing the Energy Department, say you can turn the thermostat down 10 degrees from what you had it during the day when you were at home. The American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy has said you can go as low as 65 degrees, and during the “polar vortex” freeze a few years back, the Illinois Department of Public Health advised 66 degrees. It really depends on what’s right for your family and your health. One thing is for sure: NEVER go below 55 degrees, because you could freeze your pipes.

Don’t overwork your heating system. Keep comfortable the rooms you use most. Close off drafty rooms, stairways or hallways. Close blinds for extra protection from icy night winds, but open them during the day so sunlight can help heat your home.

Reduce the drafts. The cold is an opportunity to pinpoint the drafts in your home. Your hardware store can provide materials to seal leaks, but if you can’t get there right away, improvise. For example, if you don’t have a door guard or sweep to block cold air under your front and back doors, use a rolled up towel. Using a fireplace to stay warm? Close the damper after you’re done using it, so warm air doesn’t escape out the chimney.

Clear radiators, registers, air returns and baseboards of obstructions. Dust, rugs and furniture can block the heat and leave a room chilly. You can’t heat your home if the air isn’t circulating.

Clean or replace filters for a forced-air heating system. A dirty or non-functioning filter does nothing but drain money from your wallet. Check it every month—and now is a great time to clean or replace it if it’s dirty.

Circulate the heat with the help of a ceiling fan. In the winter, run the fan clockwise (from your position, looking up at it) to pull warm air down from the ceiling. Turn off the fan when you leave the room. If you use a space heater, don’t leave it on in an empty room. Place it on a hard, level surface; keep it away from flammable objects; and don’t leave it on overnight.

Cook efficiently. Minnesota CUB says cook your favorite soup and chili recipes in crock pots. Slow cooked food tastes great and uses less energy.

Check on your neighbors. If you are concerned that neighbors can’t stay warm, check in on them. The state of Illinois has information on how to find a warming center near you. You can also call the Illinois Department of Human Services (IDHS), at 1-800-843-6154, to find a warming center.

Check with CUB. Visit our efficiency page to learn about all the programs in Illinois that help cut your utility bills. For example, you can get rebates of up to $100 off smart thermostats, which can cut your energy costs by up to 20 percent. (Here’s your chance to win a FREE smart thermostat.)