Baby, It's Cold Outside!

It's been downright chilly over the past couple of weeks - by South Carolina's standards. The thing about winter, though is that you can always put another layer of clothing on, but in summer you can only take off so much.

One financial concern during these cold months is the drastic increase in our energy bill. We just can't afford to pay so much extra...so what's a woman to do? Without knowing a thing about how thermostats or central heating units work, we can make a few small adjustments and reduce our heating bill substantially.

1. Lower the thermostat during the day. Remember the number 68. Don't set your thermostat any high than 68 degrees regardless of how cold it gets - put on a sweater. Lower that number during the day when it's a little warmer outside and you'll save even more.

2. Harness the power of the sun. And I don't mean solar panels all over the roof. If you're lowering the thermostat, open the blinds and let the sun heat the house naturally.

3. Check your insulation. Seal up cracks around the windows to keep warm air from escaping and cold air from infiltrating your cozy nest. Also make sure you have adequate insulation in the attic and outside walls.

4. Heat only the rooms you use. Close the doors on your closets and any rooms that aren't being used. Pay special attention to the door from the garage and the attic.

5. Clean your vents. There's nothing worse than dusty, dirty air vents. They'll prevent the warm air from getting out into the room and they'll circulate those particles back into the air. Sweep them with your vacuum cleaner attachment or rinse them in warm water.

6. Utilize your fireplace. This is the coziest, most romantic cold-weather idea I know of. Start a fire in the fireplace and you can lower the thermostat for a while in the evening. The crackling sound of the logs will warm up your soul while the flames warm up the room. Remember to keep the damper closed when it's not in use.

7. Mind your cooking times. Turn off the stove for the last five minutes or so of cooking your meal. Don't open the door - the heat that's still inside will continue to cook your food, so don't let it out. (But please - don't ever use your oven for heating the room. It's not only dangerous, but it's bad for the appliance and it doesn't do a very good heating job.)

8. Change out your shower head. How will that save on energy? By using a low-flow shower head, you can reduce the amount of energy the hot water heater uses. This lowers your water and your heating bill. Plus it'll be like showering the rain - how wonderful!

9. Minimize the use of fans. You can suck all of the warm out of the house in next to no time if you run the bathroom or kitchen fan more than necessary. Use them only when truly needed and only for a short amount of time.

10. Have a professional check out your heating system. For much less money than replacing something that's broken or something that's been destroyed because of faulty equipment, have an inspection done. Cleaning out your filters or replacing a soon-to-be-broken part is a much better idea than ripping out duct systems or replacing heating units later.

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