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5 Tips to Save Money This Winter

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Already, people across the country are feeling the effects of fall start to set in, causing them to trade their swimsuits for sweaters and iced coffees for hot lattés. Winter is on the way, which means it's time to brace yourself for lower temperatures - and higher heating bills.

As the price of fuel continues to rise, homeowners should consider more cost-effective strategies. Fortunately, these small measures can make a big difference in terms of slashing your bills.

Keep Tabs on the Temperature
Lowering your thermostat just one degree for eight hours before you leave the house or hit the hay can lead to at least 1 percent savings on annual heating costs, according to Good Housekeeping - so imagine what lowering it 5 to 10 degrees could do. It can be helpful to install a programmable thermostat so you don't waste any energy simply because you forgot to change the setting manually.

Pile on the Blankets
The best time to set the temperature back is at night, as you'll be under the covers anyway. Try using an electric blanket with a preheat setting, adjustable heat control and auto shutoff feature for some extra warmth and peace of mind. When you're lounging around the house reading the paper or watching TV, throw on a cozy fleece heated throw and you won't even notice that you lowered the thermostat.

Consider the Curtains
Window treatments aren't just for giving you some privacy. If you close them on a cold winter's night, you can help trap heat within your home. If you can, swap out any lightweight drapes or curtains for thicker, heavier ones. Just remember to open them during the day, as sunlight can help to warm up the space. Reduce heat loss further by applying clear plastic film to the windows.

Don't Forget About Fans
Your ceiling fan keeps you cool in the summer - but did you know it can be used for heating a room, too? In an interview with U.S. News & World Report, Tom Breeden, vice president of engineering at Hunter Fan Company, explained that setting your ceiling fan to a low speed and letting it spin clockwise can result in up to 15 percent savings on your heating bill. This technique helps to circulate the warm air that tends to get trapped toward the ceiling.

Plug up Tiny Openings
The smallest gaps around faucets, dryer vents and outlets can allow cold air from the outside to leak into your home, so it's worth taking the effort to sealing up these openings. George Stuckey of Fox Service in Austin told USA Today that sealing putty is inexpensive and stays put for decades. You may also want to install foam pads in the back of your electrical switch plates or cover open outlets with baby-proofing plugs to block out cold air.