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Five Ways To Save Money On Your Heating/Cooling Bill

One of the major expense categories for the average homeowner is utilities; water, sewer, gas, electricity, and telephone. You can shop around for phone service, but you are pretty well stuck with one provider for the others. Most homes today use natural gas for heating, and many also have central air conditioning. Together they account for over 40 percent of your home's energy costs. One way to save on your utility bills is to make sure the heating and cooling of your home is operating at peak efficiency and as economically as possible. Here are five ways to help you achieve your HVAC goal.

1. Make sure you are not heating/cooling the great outdoors. Keep doors and windows closed when your furnace or air conditioner are running. Also, make sure that the caulking and weather-stripping around the openings in your home are in good condition and not allowing air leaks.

2. Replace your filter on schedule. Many modern filters are good for up to three months, depending on conditions. A clean filter will greatly improve airflow and your system's efficiency.

3. Use it when you need it. If there is nobody home during the day, set your thermostat lower in winter and higher in summer. Do not turn the system off entirely, because it will have to work much harder to bring the temperature to a comfortable level when you turn it back on. Purchase a good programmable set-back thermostat, and set it ten degrees lower (or higher depending on the season) when the home is unoccupied or during night hours.

4. Have your system checked periodically by a professional. Many heating/air conditioning companies offer maintenance contracts that provide annual or even seasonal checks on your system. Check with the Better Business Bureau and local contractors' board to make sure you are dealing with a reputable company.

5. Consider more extensive projects that can save you money in the long run. Double or triple-paned windows can greatly cut heating or cooling loss. Tinting windows can also keep the heat out during warm weather. Upgrading your home's insulation, particularly in the attic, can achieve good results for both heating and cooling. For areas where summer heat is a problem, installing an attic fan to extract the hot air from that space is an excellent way to reduce your utility bills. And if you live in an area that gets lots of sunlight you might opt for solar panels, either for heating or electricity.