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The polar vortex finally passed, but winter is far from over. While Jack Frost may be fun for snow angels and cups of cocoa, his presence is less than welcome when it comes to paying the monthly heating bill. Here are NerdWallet's top five things you should know so you can enjoy all winter has to offer without sweating your heating bill.
1. You can save money on your heating bill without ever spending a dime
There are plenty of ways you can cut down on your heating bill without shelling out big bucks -- for example, clearing the space around heating vents so they can heat the whole room, or wearing a sweater and warm slippers around the house to keep you comfortable, while letting you run the heat less. Minimizing the use of exhaust fans in your kitchen and bathroom will also help warm air stay put instead of getting sucked outside.
2. The thermostat is your friend
Lowering your thermostat temperature by 3 degrees can help you save almost 10% on your heating bill. Based on estimates from the Energy Information Administration, that can add up to more than $100 in savings over the course of the winter. Try setting the temperature lower when you're out of the house during the day, or at night when you're snugly tucked into bed. You can also adjust the "swing" setting, which determines how far away the temperature in the room is allowed to be relative to your set temperature. A bigger swing means less switching on and off, which allows your heater to run more efficiently.
3. A safe heater will save you money
Making sure your heater's maintenance is up to date (in most cases, a checkup each year is a good bet) is a great way to ensure you're not wasting energy. Regular cleaning and upkeep are critical to keep your heater performing in tip-top shape. Replacing air filters to allow easy flow is another great place to start. In both cases, a few minutes of effort can save you lots of cash on a yearly basis.
4. Drafts are the enemy
There are many places in your home for cold to get in and heat to leak out. By addressing these issues, you can save a boatload on heating. For example, adding a special layer of plastic film to your windows (available at most hardware stores) creates an extra layer of insulation and can save you almost 15% on your heating costs. Knock out pesky drafts and leaks by ensuring your windows are properly caulked, your doors have a solid weather seal, and your chimney's flue is closed. You can even get a "chimney balloon" to help seal in heat.
5. Put heat where you need it
Close heating vents in rooms where you don't regularly go -- it will help drive heat to rooms where you spend your time. If you tend to spend most of your time in just a couple of rooms, consider using a space heater instead of running a heating system for the whole home. If you regularly use a fireplace, you can use aluminum foil to create a dish to help radiate more heat into your living room instead of being lost out the chimney.
Interested in learning more? Listen to Alex talk about lowering your heating bill on the Tavis Smiley Show.