Tips to save money on home heating costs this winter

sunWhile the forecast for winter 2009-10 stands to be easier on homeowners' wallets than usual, you can save even more money by making energy-smart improvements and easy adjustments to your household routine.

Here are eight ways to reduce home heating costs to stay warm for less this winter:

  • Seal out drafts: Eliminate air leaks and drafts around the house, and you'll trim seasonal heating costs by up to 20 percent. Sealant, caulking and weatherstripping are all easy to use, and they'll also help you earn tax credits on your 2009 return.
  • Insulate heating ducts: Keep the warmth of your forced-air heating system moving in the right direction by sealing and insulating ducts. Pay special attention to duct work in unheated areas like attics, crawlspaces and garages, giving it a wrap with insulation that has an R-Value of 6 or higher.
  • Schedule a tune-up: Natural gas, propane and oil heating systems create combustion deposits when they burn that build up and can make the system both unsafe and inefficient. Get the most out of your heating equipment by having it serviced at least once a year by a qualified professional.
  • Clean furnace filters: Dirty filters slow air flow and make your heating system work harder, so ensure efficient delivery by checking and changing filters monthly during the heating season.
  • Program for warmth: Install a programmable thermostat and set it to conserve heat while you're away from home, then warm things up before you return.
  • Trim the cost of heating water: Keep your hot water heater's temperature at 110 degrees, and insulate the tank according to manufacturer instructions. Check out the U.S. Department of Energy's Energy Savers guide for more details.
  • Get free heat: During the day, open shades and curtains on west- and south-facing windows to usher in the sun's natural warmth, then close them once night falls.
  • Reach for the star: Make energy-efficient choices for your home by looking for the Energy Star label as you shop for appliances, lighting, electronics, windows, doors and more.

Tom Kraeutler delivers tips on saving energyeach week as host of The Money Pit, a nationally syndicated home improvement radio program. He is also AOL's Home Improvement Editor and author of "My Home, My Money Pit: Your Guide to Every Home Improvement Adventure."

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