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Save energy and money with these efficiency tips

With natural gas prices about double or triple what they were last winter, it’s important to be aware of ways to save energy and protect your bottom line. Here are some tips for a potentially brutal winter:  

Get rid of the clutter. Make sure heating vents are open and not blocked by furniture or carpet. Clean dust from vents or along baseboard heaters.

Utilize your blinds. During the day, be sure to pull your blinds back and let sunlight in to naturally warm and light your home. Once the sun goes down, close your blinds to prevent cold air from getting in. If you still feel cold air coming from your windows, consider sealing them with clear plastic wrap and purchasing insulated curtains for additional layers of defense.

Be smart about your thermostat. The U.S. Department of Energy estimates that consumers can save up to 10% on their energy bills by turning the thermostat down 7-10 degrees for eight hours a day. The Energy Department recommends keeping your thermostat at about 68 degrees when you’re home and awake, and lowering it when you’re leaving the house or going to sleep. Don’t ever set it below 55 degrees–that risks freezing your pipes. Consider buying a programmable or smart thermostat

Check the attic. Insulating your attic can be the most cost-effective way to cut heating costs. Look across your attic floor. If the insulation is even with or below the attic floor joists, it’s time to add more. (CUB has some great tips on picking the right insulation in our WatchBlog article: Do-it-Yourself Home Energy Audit.)

Set your water heater to 120 degrees (warm setting). Cover it with an insulated blanket you can purchase at a hardware store.

Cook smart. Try baking multiple dishes at once to save time on using the oven. As you cook, keep pots and pans covered with lids to reduce cooking time. The cold months are the perfect time to put your crock pot and microwaves to use, as both use less energy (but still can prepare tasty meals).

Keep your refrigerator and freezer filled. By keeping your fridge full, you actually help prevent as much warm air from entering each time the door opens and closes. If you don’t have (or don’t want) a lot of food taking up room, fill some milk jugs with water and place them in the fridge.

Prepare the fireplace. Make sure your fireplace is inspected and cleaned before you use it in the winter. When you’re not using your fireplace, make sure the damper is closed to prevent warm air from escaping (taking your money with it, too!)

Be careful. Don’t use an oven or grill to heat your home. If you use a space heater, keep children and pets away from it. Place it on a hard, level surface; keep it away from flammable objects; and don’t leave it on overnight. Also, the Department of Energy recommends that such heaters should be plugged directly into the wall outlet. (If an extension cord is necessary, use the shortest possible heavy-duty cord of 14-gauge wire or larger. Check and follow any manufacturer’s instructions.) It also recommends buying a unit with a safety switch that automatically shuts off the heater if the unit is tipped over.

Lastly, don’t forget to check on your friends and loved ones to make sure they are doing well during the cold months. If you or someone you know doesn’t have access to heat, Keep Warm Illinois lists warming centers near you.

For more energy efficiency and money saving tips, visit CUB’s Gas page