Do you obsessively monitor the thermostat each winter, turning it down every time your family cranks up the heat so you can save a few bucks on the monthly utility bill? You shouldn’t have to choose between a comfortable house and your budget. If you’re tired of shivering in your own home but can’t afford your heating bills to creep any higher, here’s what you can do.

Maintain your HVAC system

An ailing HVAC system is an expensive HVAC system. When your heating and cooling isn’t operating at peak efficiency, it has to work harder to keep your home warm. That leads to higher utility bills without any added comfort.

Change your air filters on schedule, don’t block air vents, and always address furnace problems as soon as you notice them. It’s tempting to cross your fingers and hope the problem disappears, but neglecting repairs only leads to more expensive problems. Gas furnaces carry a risk of carbon monoxide poisoning, so you’ll want to skip DIY repairs and search online for a local HVAC pro instead.

Program your thermostat

According to Energy.gov, homeowners can lower their heating bills up to 10 percent by turning down the heat 7 to 10 degrees for eight hours per day. Turning down the thermostat before bed is an easy call because most people sleep better in a cool house. If everyone leaves the house for school and work during the day, you can capitalize on another eight hours of savings!

Heat selectively

The bigger your house, the more expensive it is to heat. But do you really need to heat every single room? Instead of spending money to heat space no one is using, close doors to low-traffic areas and shut vents in those rooms to keep heat where you need it.

Add some humidity

Air is drier in winter, leading to annoying cold weather problems like dry skin and scratchy throats. A lack of humidity also makes your home feel colder. If you don’t have a whole-home humidifier, buy a portable humidifier (or maybe a couple if your home is large). Rush recommends a cool-mist humidifier and warns homeowners to drain and clean humidifiers on a regular basis to prevent mold and bacteria from developing.

Block drafts

We’ve covered how to make the air inside your home more comfortable, but what about all the cold air that’s seeping in from outside? A drafty home isn’t doing your wallet or your comfort any favors. Hunt down air leaks with a lit candle or stick of incense, then seal them with weatherstripping and caulk. If you have big gaps under doorways, homemade draft stoppers should do the trick.

Homes also lose a lot of heat through the fireplace. If you have one, make sure the damper is closed during winter and consider adding a fireplace cover for extra draft-proofing.

Use your curtains

Your curtains aren’t just decorative, so use them! Open curtains on south-facing windows to let sunlight in, taking advantage of passive solar heat, and use insulated thermal curtains to prevent heat loss through your less-sunny windows. If you don’t want to spend the money on new curtains, simple homemade Kume shades will keep the cold out for much less.

The first big heating bill of the winter can come as a shock after the mild fall weather, but it shouldn’t have you cranking the thermostat down to 60 and bundling up indoors. You’ve worked hard for your home and you deserve to be comfortable. If you’ve taken these steps and your utilities bills are still higher than you’d prefer, contact your utility provider for an energy audit or to set up a budget billing plan.

Written by: Paul Denikin

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