Winter heating costs can take a bite out of your budget in New England. Even with this year’s lower energy prices, the Department of Energy still estimates that the average household could shell out as much as $2,500 or more to keep warm over the colder months. Doing what you can to use your heating system efficiently can help you stay comfortable while keeping more money in your wallet. Here are a few ways to use your heat more effectively this winter:

  1. Install a smarter thermostat.

Programmable thermostats allow you to automatically set the temperature of your home to fit your lifestyle. You can have the temperature automatically go lower at the time you normally leave the house. This protects you from money wasted by forgetting to turn the thermostat down. Smart thermostats go a step further, programming themselves based on your actual usage patterns, rather than what you guess you’ll want and need.

Even when you are away from your home, make sure that your heat is on high enough to keep the water in your pipes from freezing. While frozen pipes are sometimes unpreventable, you may find that your insurance does not cover the resulting damage unless you have taken steps to prevent your pipes from freezing.

  1. Plug up leaks.

Worn weatherstripping and thresholds that don’t quite seal can create drafts that let cold air into your house. Between 7 and 12 percent of your home’s heat loss occurs at the doors and windows, so sealing these up can lead to significant savings.

  1. Heat with free solar energy.

Open the curtains on south-facing windows during the day to let bright winter sun warm up rooms naturally. Close curtains at night to keep warm air inside your home.

  1. Just heat rooms you are using.

If you are only using one or two rooms, it is more efficient to direct heat to just those rooms. You can close registers in rooms that you are not using. Alternately, you can lower the temperature of your house as a whole and just use space heaters in the rooms you want to keep warmest. Make sure that all space heaters are inspected and up to current standards. Knowingly using unapproved heaters can result in your insurance policy not paying out in case of a fire.

You can take the “heat just the area you are using” plan even further by heating people instead of spaces. Opt for electric blankets to be able to use a lower heat setting in your home at night. Warm sweaters and slippers can go a long way toward adding comfort during the day.

A bit of maintenance and ingenuity can make a significant difference. By being conscious of ways to keep the cold out and the warm air in the places where you need it most, you can make the most efficient use of your heaters and keep your heating bills low.

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