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10 Tips: Low-cost tactics for reducing your heating bills

It could be much worse - you could be living in Minnesota, for example - but let's face it: Florida can get chilly in the winter months.

By Laura T. Coffey, Times Correspondent
Published January 6, 2008


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It could be much worse - you could be living in Minnesota, for example - but let's face it: Florida can get chilly in the winter months. High home-heating bills wallop many a household budget at this time of year. Givethese free or low-cost tips a try:

1 Layer, layer, layer. Don a sweater or bundle up in a blanket and see whether that helps. If your feet are cold, your whole body will feel cold, so make a point of wearing socks around the house in the winter.

2 Adjust your thermostat. You're not likely to notice a big difference if you turn it down just a few degrees, a move that can reduce your heating bill by 5 to 10 percent. In Florida, try setting your thermostat at 68 to 70 degrees during the day and 60 to 65 degrees when you're not home or when you're sleeping.

3 Invest in a programmable thermostat. They cost between $30 and $100, but that's money you're sure to make back over the course of a year because your heating bills will go down. A programmable thermostat would make it possible for you to follow the advice in Tip #2 without having to remember to do anything.

4 Do you have a ceiling fan? Check to see whether it has a reverse-direction feature. You can use it to circulate the warm air trapped near the ceiling and make that whole room feel warmer.

5 Your windows make a big difference. By keeping your windows covered when it's dark outside, you'll minimize heat loss and keep cold air at bay. This is especially important if you have older windows. Be sure to let in the light during the daytime, though. Rays of sun will help heat your home.

6 Check your water heater's setting. Try turning the thermostat on your water heater down to 120 degrees.

7 Stay on top of maintenance. Electric and oil heaters should get professional attention at least once a year, and gas heaters should receive a checkup every other year. Also, remember to check the filters in your heating system and make sure they're clean and clear. Dirty filters lead to higher heating costs.

8 Check the exterior of your heating unit. Avoid stacking anything against the heat pump or draping anything over it. Hose the outside unit down to clear it of dirt, leaves and grass clippings. If your indoor unit has excess water around it, see whether the condensate drain and pan are blocked.

9 Wander through your home with a candle. Hold the flame near windows, doors and light fixtures and look for smoke moving in a horizontal direction. If you see it, that means you've spotted an air leak, and it probably means heat is escaping your home easily. Install some low-cost caulking or weather-stripping or add some insulating material.

10 Seek out help if you need it. Low-income households may qualify for assistance with their heating and cooling bills. To determine your eligibility, visit www.floridacommunitydevelopment.org/liheapand follow the links to find local contact information for your area.

Laura T. Coffey (laura@tentips.org)

Sources: U.S. Energy Department's Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (www.eere.energy.gov/consumer/); SmartMoney magazine (www.smartmoney.com); Progress Energy (www.savethewatts.com).

[Last modified January 4, 2008, 20:54:09]


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