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As cold weather approaches, you and your family are likely spending lots of time indoors. However, all this time inside the house could potentially mean higher energy bills with the extra use of your lights, TVs, computers, phone chargers, etc. And since you’re likely in “budget recovery” mode following the holiday season, your family is probably looking for ways to cut back on spending — especially when it comes to energy bills.

Fortunately, saving energy (and money) during the winter is possible, and it may even be easier than you think. Follow these tips to help cut back on the amount of energy your family uses, and use that extra cash you would be spending on your energy bills for something a little more fun — like a family summer vacation.

Tip #1: Seal all openings into your home.

Many homeowners don’t realize that the main source of heat loss during the winter could be gaps in their window and door frames. As time passes, the weatherstripping materials around the frames will weaken, and it will need to be reinforced with additional weatherstripping or sealant. To determine where the openings are around your windows and doors, you can run your hand around the frame and make note of any areas where you can feel cold air seeping in. These are the problem areas that will need extra sealant added.

Additionally, check for gaps around your electrical outlets, baseboards, and even around your attic door. These areas should also have extra sealant/caulk added to help prevent heat loss in your home.

It’s crucial that you seal these openings since these are areas where cold air can get inside and warm air could be escaping, and thus causing your heating system to run overtime. All this extra use of your heater could be the reason for the higher-than-normal energy bills.

Tip #2: Keep your curtains/blinds open during the day.

During the summer, you keep your curtains or blinds closed during the day to prevent the hot sunlight from getting inside and causing your air conditioner to work extra hard to keep your family’s home cool and comfortable. During the winter, however, the opposite is true — keep your curtains/blinds open to let in the natural light during the daytime. The sunlight will help to naturally warm the inside of your home and stop your heating system from working as much to keep your family cozy.

Don’t forget to close the curtains/blinds at night or else you may wake up to a very cold and uncomfortable home. It may also be a good idea for you to add rugs where you don’t have carpet. The rugs add another layer of insulation to your floor and trap cold air at the surface — and keep your feet warm!

Tip #3: Install a programmable thermostat.

If you don’t already have a programmable or smart thermostat installed, now is a great time to add this device to your family’s home. You will be able to adjust the temperature in your home with ease. It’s recommended to have the thermostat automatically set the temperature in your home to be a few degrees cooler during the day when your family is at work and school, and then set it to start warming up again around thirty minutes before everyone is due to be back home.

Believe it or not, this slight adjustment in your home’s temperature could mean significant savings on your energy bills. Additionally, this device will come in handy during the summer months when the opposite is true — set the thermostat to be slightly warmer during the day when you aren’t home — so then your air conditioner won’t run as often and cost you a small fortune each month.

Tip #4: Maintain your furnace.

Schedule an annual maintenance appointment for your home’s heating system — even if it seems like it’s running just fine. During this yearly tune-up, a professional will carefully examine all working components of your heater to be sure things are clean and operating as efficiently as possible. If a potential problem is detected, it can be taken care of before resulting in a breakdown of your unit.

You should also replace your air filter monthly, more often if you have pets or smokers in your home. If you have a dirty filter in place, your furnace must work extra hard to push warm air through it and out to your ducts. This won’t just potentially cause premature wear and tear on its parts, but it may also lead to higher energy bills each month.

Tip #5: Use your electronic devices efficiently.

Stress to your family how important it is to be mindful of the electric items that they’re using. For example, always shut the lights off in rooms that aren’t in use, only run the washer/dryer and dishwasher when they have full loads, unplug phone and laptop chargers when not in use, and shut the TV off before falling asleep.

Additionally, an important note about your lighting — consider using energy-efficient LED bulbs instead of the more outdated varieties that suck up more energy when in use.

Want more homeowner tips?

Visit the American Water Resources blog for helpful homeowner tips, tricks, and advice!