Keep warm this winter without blowing your budget

Efficiency Vermont offers tips for Vermonters

The crisp days of autumn are upon us, and the bracing cold of winter is building just around the bend. Efficiency Vermont offers these tips to stay warm and lower your energy bills:

• Take charge of your thermostat - You'll shave two percent to three percent off your energy costs with every degree you lower your thermostat around the clock. Lowering the heat from 72 to 65 degrees for eight hours per day can save you as much as 10 percent annually.

How? Lower the heat as everyone leaves for the day and just before going to bed. Programmable thermostats turn the heat down when everyone's away and warm the place up in time for the family's return.

• Master your windows - If you have functional windows, it's cheaper to improve them than to replace them with energy-efficient windows. Caulk gaps and cracks around window frames; shut windows fully; put up interior window plastic sheeting from kits sold at hardware stores; use storm windows; drafty doors will benefit from weather stripping and door sweeps.

• Tune up your furnace or boiler - Oil-fired systems need annual maintenance. Gas systems and heat pumps typically need a checkup every two years, and a new filter will go a long way toward maintaining the efficiency of your furnace and decreasing your energy bills.

• Close dampers when you're not using the fireplace - An open fireplace damper pulls warm air from the house even when you haven't got a fire burning. Wait until ashes go cold before closing the damper.

• Help the heat reach you - Dust or vacuum radiators, baseboard heaters, and furnace duct openings often and keep them free of obstructions such as furniture, carpets, and drapes.

• Keep cold out, warmth in - A typical house has many places where air moves between living spaces and the attic and between the basement and outdoors. The result: colder rooms and higher heating bills. The solution: seal gaps and then properly install insulation.

• Schedule a free energy audit - You can save up to 30 percent on your energy bills and improve your comfort by working with a qualified Energy Star contractor. These trained and certified contractors can perform an energy audit of your home and recommend improvements. Efficiency Vermont offers financial incentives when you complete energy efficiency improvements through one of these contractors.

• Weatherize like you mean it - Save on heating bills and home improvement by learning what the energy pros know. Efficiency Vermont will be offering classes in the upcoming weeks, and everything else you need to know to start taking control of your energy costs this winter can be found on its website.

• Swap out those bulbs - Replace incandescent light bulbs with Energy Star compact fluorescent light bulbs, which use up to 75 percent less energy, or Energy Star LEDs, which use even less energy and last much longer. And because many home and office electronics drain power from the socket even when turned off, plug them into a power strip and turn it off when you're not using the equipment.

• Look for the Energy Star label - Whether you're planning to purchase new appliances, home electronics, or a heating system, products boasting the Energy Star label are the most efficient models on the market.

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