Keep the cold out this winter

Girl in Winter Hat

According to the Alliance to Save Energy, South Dakotans will spend an average of $1,248 this year to heat their homes. That accounts for more than 55 percent of a South Dakotan's residential energy bill. While there's no way to stop Old Man Winter from bearing down this season, there are ways you can stand up to him and lower your energy bills.

Plug leaks – Gaps around windows and doors may be small, but they can collectively add up to big energy losses. Plugging these leaks with caulk or other materials is the first action you should take to combat high heating costs. Feel for leaks around doors, windows, outlets and light switch plates. Plastic sheeting kits for windows and easy-to-install foam insulators for outlets can be purchased at many retail stores. Adding insulation to attics and crawl spaces will also help improve your home's ability to retain heat and keep the cold air out.

Turn it down – Installing a programmable thermostat can also help to lower your heating bill. These devices have automatic digital timers that can be set to turn the thermostat up or down at different times of the day. For example, you can program the thermostat to be set at 68 degrees when you rise at 6 a.m., set back 8 degrees when you leave for work at 7:30 a.m. and rise back to 68 degrees when you return home at 5:30 p.m.

If you live in an apartment or other residence where installing a programmable thermostats isn't an option, consider setting your manual thermostats at 68 degrees during the day and 60 degrees at night. If that is lower than you are accustomed, gradually make the change by adjusting back one degree each week. Homes with elderly or infant occupants should have the thermostat set at 70 degrees.

Let the sun shine in – Open your window shades or drapes when the sun is shining and let the passive solar heating warm your room. Keep your window coverings closed on cloudy days and at night to preserve the warm indoor temperature.

Following these steps will help you – and your wallet – have a comfortable winter.

Some information for this article was provided by the Alliance to Save Energy
January 2009