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12 Tips for Winter Efficiency

Avoid home hazards as you try to get cozy

For many of us, winter means holiday shopping, hot chocolate and time spent with friends and family. For those of us trying to save money, this part of the year also means finding new ways to conserve energy. Check out these top 12 tips:

1. Air seal and insulate your home. You can prevent heat from escaping and cold from entering your home—lowering your heating bills—by insulating and air sealing your home.

2. Use a programmable thermostat. You can reduce energy waste by using a programmable thermostat that can lower the temperature setting at specific times, such as when you’re asleep or away from home, and increase the heat before you get back for dinner.

3. Install Energy Star doors and windows. Doors and windows are places where cold and warm air easily can escape. By installing energy-efficient doors and windows that are Energy Star-certified, you’ll save energy and money thanks to their better insulation.

4. Use LED holiday lights. LEDs are at least 75 percent more efficient and last up to 25 times longer than traditional incandescent lights. And LEDs produce almost no heat, which reduces fire risk.

5. Turn off the lights. The savings from consistently turning off lights—and computers and TVs—when they aren’t being used can add up. If you’re out on vacation this winter, use timers to turn lights off and on to mimic the house being occupied and save energy over leaving lights on all the time.

6. Lower the water heater temperature. One significant way to reduce energy consumption if you’re away on vacation is to simply lower your water heater setting. If you’ll be gone three or more consecutive days, set the water heater to the lowest or “vacation” setting, if there is one.

7. Unplug electronics. When you are away, unplug kitchen appliances, DVD players, TVs and computers to save energy and money. These electronics can use up energy even when they’re turned off.

8. Use power strips. If the idea of running around your home to unplug everything is a bit too much, use power strips to power multiple appliances, then turn everything off with a flip of the power strip’s switch.

9. Adjust blinds and curtains. Close your curtains and shades at night to protect against cold drafts and open them during the day to let in warming sunlight.

10. Lay down a rug for more heat. You’ll not only help insulate your floors, you’ll cut down on noise, too.

11. Reverse ceiling fans. When you reverse the direction of your fan (there’s a little switch on the motor housing), the fan will push warm air downward and recirculate it through the room. To ensure your fan is spinning in the correct direction, set it so the blades are spinning clockwise when you look up.

12. Weatherproof windows. During the winter, up to 30 percent of your home’s heat can escape through low-efficiency windows. Upgrading to storm windows can reduce heat loss but often requires a costly installation. For a budget-friendly alternative, cover windows and sliding doors with clear plastic film (readily available at home improvement stores). This simple trick can save you up to 14 percent on your heating bill.