The Cheapest Ways to Cut Home Heating Costs

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For people who live in chilly climates, winter heating costs can be a real nightmare. While replacing old windows, insulation or inefficient water heaters are all great ways to save on energy bills, most of us don’t have stacks of cash lying around for such big-ticket purchases. But there are a lot of small things you can do to keep warm and cut costs this winter, and best of all, many of these tips won’t cost you a dime.

Say Goodbye to Drafts

In the battle to keep you home warm, openings, cracks and crevices are the enemy and they lurk everywhere -- a yawning chimney flue, an air conditioner lazily left in a window, or missing weather stripping beneath a door. Seal these up to keep the winter wind from whistling through your home.

Windows are the biggest culprit when it comes to drafts, particularly in old houses that lack newer, more energy efficient frames. To check if your windows are drafty, light a stick of incense and move it slowly around the frame, watching the smoke to see if any air is getting through. If needed, you can seal up leaks with a little caulking around the frame. Similarly, a shrink wrap kit - basically a big piece of sandwich wrap for your windows - will run you less than $10 and can seal even the draftiest openings.

If you have windows that get direct sunlight, take advantage of them by throwing open the curtains during the day to allow the sun’s rays to do the work of your heating system. You can close the blinds at night for a little added insulation.

Keep the Heat In

While waging the war to keep drafts out, make an equal effort to keep heat in.

If you have central heating, check to make sure there are no rugs or furniture obstructing vents. Dirty heating ducts can also cause problems, so vacuum them regularly to keep them free of dust and debris. And while you have the vacuum out, head down to the furnace room to clean any permanent filters -- it’s best to simply replace dirty disposable ones. If you have any rooms in your house that are rarely used, keep the doors and vents shut. There no sense in paying to heat a room you are rarely in.

For those of you living in the most frigid climates, nature already provides some of the best free insulation around - snow. Pile up a drift of the white stuff about 18 to 24 inches deep against patio doors or floor-to-ceiling windows to keep drafts out and keep the heat in. If you want to go the extra mile, you can also do this around the entire base of the house to provide that little extra cushion against the cold.

Finally, why pay to heat your house all day if no one is in it? Many thermostats have a programmable setting, allowing you to drop the temperature five or 10 degrees when you leave for work and warming the house back up by the time you get home.

By following a few of these tips, you can really bring down energy costs, all without spending a cent. And really, what warms a person more than free money?