Winter, with its blustery, cold weather is just around the corner. Soon we’ll be dragging the sweaters out of our closets and turning the heat on in our houses. No one looks forward to being hit with the large energy bills that result from heating our homes. There are some simple things that we can do to help lower our energy bills this winter.

Have your furnace serviced. A serviced and cleaned furnace runs more efficiently and saves you money as you heat your home. Make your appointment before winter comes, when you’ll be waiting behind everyone else who wants theirs done.

Install a programmable thermostat. This allows you to lower the temperature when you are not at home and have it return to a comfortable temperature before you return. You’ll be saving money by not heating the house when you are not there. Lower the temperature when you are in bed at night and have it return to a warmer temperature before you get up in the morning. This is another great energy saving tip.

Open blind and drapes during the day and close them at night. During the day when the sun is shining, open the blind or drapes to let this natural heat source warm your home. Then at night close them to trap the heat indoors.

Insulate any heating ducts exposed to colder weather. If you have any exposed heating ducts running through your garage or attic, you might want to think about wrapping them in insulation. This will prevent heat from escaping or cooling down as it works its way around your home.

Look for insulation opportunities. Some well-placed insulation, especially in older homes, can save a bundle. You need a minimum of 12 inches of insulation in your attic. An easy way to figure if you need additional insulation, is if you can see your ceiling joists, you need more insulation. (Ceiling joists are 10-11 inches tall).

Check the temperature on your water heater. If you are heating your water to boiling, you are just wasting money. 120°F is high enough for most needs. Also make sure that your water heater is wrapped in insulation.

Use fans to move heated air around your house. If you have ceiling fans, set them on the lowest speed and have them push the warm air that rises to the ceiling back down to your level. This will make the room feel a lot warmer and might allow you to lower the temperature of your thermostat.

Keep the fireplace damper closed. Because heat rises, an open damper is just like a hole in your roof. Also, limit the use of your fireplace, since fires actually suck heat from a room. If you don’t use your fireplace to heat your home you may consider blocking it off for the winter.

Keep heating vents clear. Vents blocked by rungs and furniture will prevent heated air from circulating efficiently.

Remove dust from radiator or baseboard heat vents. Dust is a wonderful insulator and tends to build up on radiators. It keeps the heat from getting into the rooms where it’s needed. Dust or vacuum all radiator surfaces frequently.

Seal leaks around windows and doors. According to the ACEEE (American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy), you can save up to 10% on your heating bill by sealing these leaks and the materials will pay for themselves within a year.

Reduce cold air leakage in dryer vents. Cold air leaks into your home through the exhaust duct on your clothes dryer. You can install a low-cost dryer vent seal that will reduce unwanted air filtration and also keep out pests, bees and rodents.

Talk to your kids about energy conservation. Try to teach your kids the importance of keeping doors closed and turning off lights when not in use.

Bundle up! Wear warm, layered clothes indoors during cold weather. This allows you to turn down the thermostat and still stay warm and cozy!