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Winter can provide a rude awakening to the state of your bank account when your first energy bill of the season comes in. Especially in parts of the country that often have freezing temperatures outside, keeping your home comfortable can come at a high cost. Thankfully, there are several strategies you can use to reduce the amount of energy you use and keep your gas and electric bills under control this winter.

Choose your standard thermostat setting carefully

You do not need to keep your home at a balmy 72 degrees all winter long. The U.S. Department of Energy recommends setting your thermostat to no more than 68 degrees while you are at home and awake. This temperature should feel comfortable if you are wearing a sweater and socks or slippers, and you can also use a throw blanket to help stay warm while you are relaxing.

Turn the heat down at night

Toss an extra blanket or two on your bed and dial back the thermostat overnight to avoid wasting money keeping your whole house warm when all you really need is a warm bed. Most people will be perfectly comfortable with the temperature as low as at 60 degrees. In fact, research shows that you sleep better in a cool room, somewhere between 60 and 67 degrees. If you want to wake up to a warm house, consider getting a programmable thermostat so you can set the heat to turn back on an hour before you need to wake up.

Consider supplementing with space heaters

If you spend most of your time in one room of your home, it can be wasteful to heat your whole home to a comfortable temperature. Instead, turn down the thermostat a few degrees and use a space heater to maintain the temperature you want in the room where you are spending time. A space heater is also a good way to keep an infant's room warm overnight while you allow the rest of the house to get cold.

Insulate your home

Proper insulation and air sealing will help you keep warm air in your home while the cold air stays out. If you own your home, invest a bit of money this year in improving your insulation, and it will pay you back with lower energy bills. Attic insulation is especially important, and you can also save lots of money by caulking and weather-stripping your windows. If you are renting, you can use door socks to help seal drafty windows or doors, and take them with you to your next place when you move.

Manage windows to your advantage

Your windows can be both a liability and an asset for keeping your house warm during the winter. Close your drapes at night to provide extra insulation and to keep out cold air. During the day, though, you should open drapes if it is sunny outside. The sun can work to warm your home, especially through windows that face south, which gets the most direct sunlight.

Use fans to even out temperatures

A basic science lesson will teach you that hot air rises, but, unfortunately, you do not feel much of the air in the top half of the room. You can put your ceiling fan to work bringing that hot air gently down to even out the temperature. Flip the fan switch, so it turns in a clockwise direction at low speed. That will gently push the air down without creating a wind chill.

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