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Slash Your Home Heating Bill With These 4 Tips

Stay toasty on a budget.

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Home heating costs are soaring across the US, with prices of natural gas and home heating oil doubling in some areas compared to last year. Fortunately, there are simple ways to lower costs while staying warm. Read on for four tips that’ll help you slash your home heating bill.

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On a tight budget? You may qualify for help from the federal government’s Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP). It’s free to apply, and if accepted, the program helps you pay your heating bill and cover the cost of weatherizing your home to reduce your energy usage. Every year, 5.2 million US households have their heating expenses lowered by this program. To find out if you qualify, go here or call 866-674-6327. You may also qualify for assistance from your utility provider or state government. Find out about local programs by logging on here or contacting your state’s energy office here.

Look high and low for leaks.

You likely already know to seal windows with removable caulk or film and place draft stoppers at the base of exterior doors to block drafts that inflate your energy bill. But home energy expert Allison Bailes, III, PhD, author of A House Needs to Breathe… Or Does It? says there are even more important drafty gaps to look for: “Because warm air rises, it will leak out of the top of the house,” he explains. As a result, you end up paying to heat air that doesn’t even stay inside in your home. “Make sure the attic hatch or pull-down stairs are closed tightly and insulated,” he urges.

Then check for drafts that let in a chill from the bottom of your home. “Cold air gets pulled into the basement or lower level of a house,” he notes. So if you spot any gaps that let in icy outdoor gusts (like holes where cable wires come in from outside), seal them up!

Bonus Tip: Clean air-vent covers regularly to remove dust and debris that can block air flow. To do: Turn off the heat, remove vent covers, then wipe with a damp rag.

Rearrange the room.

Feeling warmer in your home without raising the thermostat is as easy as making minor tweaks to your decor. For example: “Lay out an area rug on hardwood surfaces,” advises Traci Fournier, Vice President of Operations at One Hour Heating and Air Conditioning in Houston. Rugs insulate floors, which helps keep heat in, plus it feels warmer as you walk on it.

Also smart: “Move your furniture around so you sit near interior walls instead of exterior ones,” Fournier advises. They’re warmer since they don’t come in contact with the outdoor air. Can’t move furniture or have uninsulated exterior walls that get especially chilly? Hang tapestries, rugs or other fabric decor on them, advises Bailes. “The fabric acts as a buffer between you and the cold wall.” This helps keep warmth in and cold out. “This was how they kept warm in old European stone buildings and castles in the winter,” he explains.

Do a ‘tissue test’.

If your home doesn’t warm up as easily as it used to, grab a 6″ strip of toilet tissue and locate the supply vents (they push out heated air) in each room. While the heat is on, hold the tissue in front of each vent. If it doesn’t move, air is not coming out of the vent, which likely means the duct leading to the vent got disconnected. “I’ve seen this in many homes,” says Bailes. It means the heated air isn’t making it to the rooms it’s supposed to go, wasting your money. To check for a loose duct, look at the ducts in your attic, basement, or crawl space, then reconnect any that have become disconnected or call an HVAC technician to do it for you.

Scam buster!

If you get a call from someone claiming to be from your utility company saying that you have an overdue bill and they’ll turn off your heat unless you pay them immediately, hang up. Fraudsters are making these phony calls all over the US, and they’re even using “spoofed” numbers that say your utility company’s name in the caller ID. They’re hoping to scare you into handing over your debit card or credit card number or paying them via a prepaid gift card or wire transfer.

This article originally appeared in our print magazine, Woman’s World.

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