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**Updated Feb. 2, 2018: Punxsutawney Phil came out of his hole this morning and did indeed see his shadow. That means we're absolutely probably possibly in for six more weeks of winter. Fingers crossed Phil got it wrong. (Staten Island Chuck, incidentally, thinks Spring is on its way.) Winter is a bummer — and a big-time moneywaster. Per the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA), heating can account for two-thirds of your annual energy bill. And that's not the only expense frigid weather brings. Here are seven ways to keep the rest of winter from busting your budget.
Turning your thermostat back seven to 10 degrees for eight hours a day can lower the cost of heating and cooling a home by 10% a year, says Energy.gov. It recommends setting your thermostat to 68 degrees while moving about the house and dropping the temperature while sleeping or away. To lower your next water bill, drop the temperature of your water heater to warm (about 120 degrees).
To get the most out of your thermostat, make sure you've sealed up any air leaks. If outside air is entering through any windows, ducts, or other points in the structure, your thermostat will have to work harder and it'll cost you more money. Caulk and weatherstrips are some of the most cost-effective ways to staunch an icy draft. (Duct tape, despite the name, is not.)
Replace your furnance or heat-pump filter so it doesn't work harder than necessary. Clean the gutters so any late snow can drain properly. Check the batteries in your smoke and carbon monoxide detectors. Test your sump pump, since you should do that every few months anyway, and make sure your snow blower still has gas.
Here's a hack you might not have utilized this winter: Reverse the motor in your ceiling fan and run it at low speed. That'll force hot air at the top of the room toward the walls and down to the floor, which can raise the room's temperature, save energy, and lower your utility bill.
Or at least commit to cooking in lieu of eating in, because ordering in gets expensive. Having said that, preparing meals in batches minimizes how often you're using your oven. FYI, crockpots and microwaves are more energy-efficient, and you'll use no extra energy at all if you're just chopping up vegetables for a salad.
Cold air lowers your tire pressure. And low tire pressure creates safety issues. (It also decreases gas mileage.) Avoid a flat, blowout, or costly car accident by checking your wheels and filling up as necessary. And, while we're at it, here are five safety features in cars that prevent accidents.
Take advantage of being weather-bound by getting on the phone with your utility, cable, cell phone and insurance provider and asking for a better deal. These companies change their pricing structures all the time to woo new customers so, if you've been in a long-term contract, you're probably due a deal. We've got some tips for negotiating your utility bill here.
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