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    Baby, it’s cold outside: 3 ways to keep your Billings home warm and save big bucks this winter

    save money on utilities


    The weather folks are saying that we can expect light snow this morning and a high today in the low 20s. It’ll be cloudy and cold for much of the weekend and then Monday – oh, you don’t want to know.

    At least we don’t have frozen iguanas falling from trees like they do in Florida or white-out conditions like New Yorkers are facing.

    But, still, it’s cold and until the days of tank tops, shorts and sandals come back (oh, please hurry!), we’ll be cranking up the heat in our homes.

    That costs money – and, I don’t know about you, but that’s money I’d rather spend on something more fun than heating my home. So, let’s take a look at some simple ways to keep toasty without spending a fortune.


    1. Use the sun – when it’s out

    Heavy drapes help keep the warmth inside and the cold out. But, on those rare winter days when the sun is shining, use it for all it’s worth. FREE solar heat!

    Those south-facing windows are the ones you want to work with, opening the curtains in the morning and then closing them when the sun goes down.

    Speaking of windows, if yours are drafty, there’s an easy, although not attractive, way to fix that. Buy some clear plastic sheeting and tape it to the inside of your window frames.

    Home Depot sells window kits, with a film you apply using the heat from a blow dryer. Apparently, it’s easy to remove when the weather warms up.


    2. Make the thermostat work for you

    The U.S. Department of Energy claims that if you set your thermostat back 10 to 15 degrees for eight hours, you’ll save about 10 percent on your heating bills. A good time to do this is while you’re sleeping – just pile on the blankets and you’ll be nice and toasty.

    The Department of Energy says that for a double whammy, also turn the thermostat back for those hours you’re away from home, at work.

    While the debate rages over whether or not this tactic actually saves money (after all, think of the energy used to bring the temperature back to where you want it while your home), simple thermodynamics say otherwise.

    Your home’s rate of heat loss actually goes down at lower temperatures

    Sure, it’s a hassle to have to fidget with the thermostat. Consider upgrading to a programmable one. You’d be surprised how much easier it is to set and forget the thermostat.

    And, just as in the summer when the a/c is cranking, you’ll need to replace the filter on your furnace or heat pump monthly.


    3. Ceiling fans – the debate continues

    So, does reversing the direction of your ceiling fan in winter actually help? According to energystar.gov, it does. “In the winter, reverse the motor and operate the ceiling fan at low speed in the clockwise direction,” they state on the website.

    “This produces a gentle updraft, which forces warm air near the ceiling down into the occupied space.”

    But, wait – what if, in your home, the couch is situated beneath the fan. The couch the family sits on to watch TV at night.

    In this case, “the wind chill effect created by the fan will negate any heating benefit,” claims Jim Sulski in the Chicago Tribune. “If it’s in a nearby foyer, however, it may be a benefit,” he concludes.

    So, whether or not this tip will work from you, depends on your particular home.

    Just say no to the urge to close vents in unused rooms

    Sort of makes sense, right? Close heating vents in rooms you don’t use to avoid wasting money heating them.

    Not so fast, says Today’s Homeowner’s Danny Lipford.

    “If you reduce the amount of square footage the system heats and cools, it will cause your furnace or air conditioner to cycle on and off more frequently. This results in additional wear and tear on the unit,” he cautions. This may end up costing you more money in repairs than any savings you may realize by closing vents.

    Next time you feel a chill in the air and are tempted to fiddle with the thermostat, throw on another layer of clothing. Keep cozy blankets on the couch that you can grab easier than making a trip to the thermostat and use rugs on the floor for insulation.

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