5 quick ways to re­duce your heat­ing bills

Daily Press (Sunday) - - Good Life - By Deb­bie Carl­son Chicago Tri­bune

Heat­ing bills are loom­ing large. Check out these five tips to quickly cut your en­ergy costs with­out sac­ri­fic­ing com­fort.

1. Stop leaks

Drafty rooms suck (the heat out of your home). Sin­gle-pane, older win­dows with­out re­li­able storm win­dows can lose heat quickly, so use plas­tic sheet­ing — like the 3M Win­dow Kit— to seal them. If drafts are com­ing in around the frame, fill those with caulk­ing.

Seal­ing leaks around win­dows and doors will in­stantly raise the com­fort level in the room and save money, said Keri Murschell, di­rec­tor of prod­uct and busi­ness in­no­va­tion for NRG En­ergy. Your front door can be a big cul­prit, so add weather strip­ping. Heat gets pulled from at­tics and es­capes out the front, some­thing she dis­cov­ered at her home af­ter an en­ergy au­dit.

Matt Sun­deen, store man­ager at Lowe’s Wicker Park lo­ca­tion in Chicago, said light switches can be an un­seen source of cold air. Prod­ucts like White Foam Out­let Switch Weather­strips fit be­hind the wall plate to pre­vent drafts.

While you’re at it, give your wa­ter heater a hug by wrap­ping it in an in­su­la­tion blan­ket. “Cold base­ments make wa­ter heaters work harder, in­creas­ing ev­ery­day en­ergy use,” Sun­deen said. “It’s cheap and a quick, easy way to cut back on your heat­ing bill,” he said.

2. Get smart

Smart ther­mostats, like the Nest Learn­ing Ther­mo­stat and Ecobee, can re­duce heat­ing bills by learn­ing your sched­ule and pro­gram­ming tem­per­a­tures around your ac­tiv­ity. Murschell said she likes be­ing able to ac­cess her ther­mo­stat on her phone when she’s away, so if she for­gets to turn it down be­fore leav­ing for va­ca­tion — or wants to raise the heat be­fore she re­turns — she can do so re­motely.

“It also gives you re­ports on how you’re do­ing, what your en­ergy his­tory is like and other in­sights into en­ergy that peo­ple haven’t tra­di­tion­ally had to think about,” she said.

Al­though smart thermo- stats are still pricey, many util­i­ties are of­fer­ing re­bates to home­own­ers who want one, and some even in­stall the de­vices if pur­chased through the util­ity.

If you want to mea­sure your to­tal en­ergy con­sump­tion, a pro­fes­sion­ally in­stalled home en­ergy mon­i­tor­ing sys­tem, like Sense, will mon­i­tor all your elec­tric­ity use and give you choices of how and when to use en­ergy smartly.

3. Turn down the temps

The U.S. En­ergy Depart­ment says set­ting your ther­mo­stat to 68 de­grees when you’re at home and ac­tive and then low­er­ing it when you sleep saves money. Low­er­ing the ther­mo­stat 7-10 de­grees for eight hours daily from its nor­mal set­ting can save as much as 10 per­cent a year, on av­er­age, de­pend­ing on where you live.

4. Heat just a small space

Work from home, but don’t want to heat the whole house all day? Con­sider a sin­gle-room space heater. New space heaters can be much more stylish — and many are pro­gram­mable, which means they use less en­ergy. Sun­deen says an at­trac­tive op­tion is the Lasko 1,500-Watt Ce­ramic Tower Elec­tric Space Heater, which has a sev­en­hour auto-off timer. Freak­ing out be­cause you left the house with the space heater run­ning? Re­lax. Use a smart plug like iHome to turn it off with your phone and you won’t have to worry about burn­ing down the house.

5. Layer up

Now that you’ve saved money on heat­ing bills, splurge on a beau­ti­ful cardi­gan or gor­geous throw. Sure it’s an old­fash­ioned way to stay warm, but you get a twofer, be­ing both stylish and prac­ti­cal. Check out the fash­ion­able sweaters from X[D1] and X. Or find a snug­gle buddy, and in­vest in an heir­loom-qual­ity throw from Im­pe­rial Yarn, whose all-Amer­i­can blan­kets are wo­ven us­ing fiber from Amer­ica-raised sheep and al­paca. Deb­bie Carl­son is a free­lance writer.

JGI/JAMIE GRILL/GETTY

Wear­ing lay­ers is an easy way to save on heat­ing costs.

ECOBEE/NEST

Two pop­u­lar smart ther­mostats are the Ecobee 4 and the Nest Learn­ing Ther­mo­stat.

LASKO

Lasko’s Ce­ramic Tower elec­tric space heater is a stylish and ef­fec­tive way to heat a sin­gle room.

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