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5 tips for a warmer, cheaper winter

With winter on the way, it's time to save some cold cash on heating costs. You can do it without spending a lot.

By Stacy Johnson Oct 21, 2011 4:41PM

This story is from Brandon Ballenger at partner site Money Talks News.

The days are getting shorter and the nights are getting colder. Many states are seeing their first freeze of the season, and it's time to turn on the heat. 

According to the U.S. Department of Energy, more than half of the average power bill is from heating: 18% for heating water, and 45% goes to keeping the house warm. Finding ways to preserve that heat can mean significant savings.

Fortunately, many of the tricks to do it aren't difficult or expensive. In the video below, Stacy Johnson covers five basic tips. Check it out, and then read on for details.

As Stacy said, you can do some of these chores this weekend and it will probably pay for itself before winter's over. 

  • Seal leaks. figures you can save 10% of your annual energy bill with proper sealing and insulation (see below). Caulk is a cheap fix, and there are several easy ways to identify leaks. There's the one Stacy mentioned: Use a candle and watch for the flicker. Another is to grab a flashlight and a helping hand tonight. Light will shine through from the other side of cracks leaking air. You can also test doors and windows with a simple sheet of paper. Shut them over the paper and try to pull it free. If it comes out without tearing, you have a leak. Check high and low: attics, basements, foundations, windows, doors, and anywhere different building materials meet or where pipes enter and exit.
  • Add more insulation. As you heard in the video, this can run $500 for an average-sized home. But it takes only a few hours, and will save year-round. Adding insulation to walls can be tricky and expensive, but the attic is usually easy to get to and makes a big difference. suggests how you can tell whether you need to add insulation at a glance: If the insulation isn't level with or above the floor beams, get more. For step-by-step instructions and safety info, check out this insulation guide from the U.S. Department of Energy.
  • Air filters. The cheapest fix on the list is not the least important: Air filters should be changed at least every three months. A dirty air filter wastes energy by blocking air flow. It can also lead to costly repairs for your furnace, so don't overlook this simple $3 job.
  • Programmable thermostat. Being able to schedule temperature adjustments for when you're asleep or away from home is an easy way to save money. says you can save 10% to 15% on your annual heating costs by turning your thermostat back 10 to 15 degrees for eight hours. (The savings are greater in milder climates.) It also debunks an old myth: "A common misconception associated with thermostats is that a furnace works harder than normal to warm the space back to a comfortable temperature after the thermostat has been set back, resulting in little or no savings." It doesn't work that way, so don't be afraid to turn it down. And putting on an extra layer of clothes, rather than turning it back up, will save even more money.
  • Water heater. A jacket to insulate your water heater can cost $25, but cuts water heating costs up to 9%. Here are instructions. also suggests setting the temperature to 120 degrees, noting that each 10-degree drop produces a savings of 3% to 5%.

Some of the bigger energy-saving investments may be worth your while too. As we mentioned in "4 reasons to start thinking taxes now," 10% of qualifying expenses (up to $500) this year can be claimed as a tax credit.


More on Money Talks News and MSN Money:

Oct 21, 2011 7:30PM

What I have a hard time with is we have given tax credit to homeowners to purchase/replace items with ENERGY EFFICIENT ITEMS, but when it comes to new construction, this same incentive does not apply.  I am talking about tax credits.


I built a new home in 2005 and put in Andersen 400 Series Casement Windows, blow in wall insulation that is wet and dries to seal cracks and crevices more.  I did this because I have much lower utility bills both in the summer and winter.  My windows and doors cost $28K when I built my home but the lifetime savings in energy costs will be huge.  Even though I did not get a tax credit, I will save in the long run.


We should be giving incentives for new construction the same as retrofits.  The politics that be are messed up!

Oct 21, 2011 10:15PM

where can you buy an air filter for $3 ??

the one THAT guy's holding costs at least $12.50

Oct 22, 2011 12:31AM

Setting back a thermostat on a heat  pump system will usually cost you more, but this is never mentioned in these articles. When the thermostat calls for an increase in temperature, the electric heat strips will kick in if more than a couple of degrees temperature rise is needed. This will cost far more than if you keep a steady temp that the heat pump alone can maintain.

Oct 22, 2011 12:50AM
Best thing to do is add cellulose attic insulation and a honey well progamable thermostat. You will definitely see a decrease in your bills. Plus you can use the insulation install as a tax deduction at least in my state you can, and Idaho Power will send you a check too if you live in Idaho. So it basically pays for itself. Also if you have the money a newer ac/heat system will reduce your cost too. I just went with insulation and a thermostat, best thing I ever did!!!!
Oct 22, 2011 3:08AM
I hooked up a power switch to my water heater and we only turn it on when we need hot water. The water gets hot enuff within five minute!! This has saved me more than 20%. of coarse you could go pay 1000 bucks for one of those instant water heaters but I can't afford that so I use the switch for my 55 gallon heater. Also noticed it is more efficient being that when the cold water is heated up this way it knocks the scale from the heating elements causing them to be more productive...
Oct 21, 2011 11:50PM
cheap air filter every 3 months.  oh I got stimulated by barry obahma last year and had the money to buy new heat pump. yeah me!
Oct 21, 2011 10:45PM
We have installed thousands of thermostats and we do not recommend installing 3M Filtrete or Home Depot brands! (Honeywell works fine and is sold by H.D.). It is best to install a Source 1 or Venstar Brand Thermostat. Thermostat's from home depot are known to short out the main control board and cost you even more money. If you are in need of any air conditioning advice or service please don't hesitate to contact me. Chris, SOLID HVAC INC. 877 AIR 7302
Oct 21, 2011 10:39PM
I know how to save 90 plus % on heating cost.How do I market my idea or get investment towards my idea.
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