We've all braved the steep prices at the gas pumps this summer, but our energy expenses are far from over. As winter approaches, so does the increase in electricity, heating oil and natural gas usage. Energy efficiency is the smartest approach to hold down costs while still remaining comfortable. So here are some tips to cut your energy bills this winter:

  • Heating accounts for the biggest chunk of winter energy bills. Make sure your furnace receives a professional "tune-up" each year, and clean or replace air filters once a month to help your unit run more efficiently.
  • You can cut related annual energy expenditures by 30 percent. As heating and cooling equipment, appliances, computers and office equipment, windows, lighting fixtures, and consumer electronics break down or no longer meet your needs, replace them with products bearing the Energy Star label (http://www.energystar.com)
  • Your home is probably leaking energy dollars. Make sure attic and/or ceilings are well-insulated. Seal joints in attic air ducts, and make sure they're well insulated, too. (See the North America Insulation Manufactures Association Web site for insulation details.)
  • Plug other energy "leaks." Seal leaks between moving parts (between a door and its frame) with weather-stripping. Fill leaks between nonmoving parts (between window frames and walls) with caulking, and install low-e or spectrally selective windows, glass doors, and skylights.
  • To see what energy upgrades would have the greatest payoff, log on to the interactive Home Energy Checkup on the Alliance to Save Energy's Web site. See an animated version of Power$mart: Easy Tips to Save Money and the Planet or get a free print copy at (888) 878-3256.
  • Tired of waking up in a chilly bedroom, so you leave the heat on all night? A programmable thermostat will automatically coordinate your home temperature with your daily and weekend patterns to increase comfort and monetary savings.