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Home utility bills often rise dramatically in the winter. If you have been paying a lot for heating, there may be some relatively simple and inexpensive ways to keep your house at a comfortable temperature and reduce your bills.

Schedule a Home Energy Audit and Furnace Inspection
A home energy audit can pinpoint areas where heat is escaping or where cold outside air is getting in. An auditor can also recommend solutions. You may be able to get an audit for free or at a low cost via your utility company. 

Your furnace needs routine inspections and maintenance to perform optimally. Before it gets too cold, schedule an inspection so you will have a chance to make any needed repairs and avoid a breakdown. 

If your heating system is old and your energy bills have been running higher and higher each year, it may be time to replace your furnace with a more efficient model. Although that may be expensive initially, it will pay off in the long run by lowering your monthly utility bills.

Replace Your HVAC Filter 
When you use your furnace a lot, the filter can become clogged with dirt, dust and other contaminants. A dirty filter can keep the furnace from operating efficiently, which can translate to expensive heating bills. Make sure you know how to change your furnace filter and how often. Replacing the filter as recommended will remove contaminants and help you avoid high heating costs. 

Use Your Thermostat to Control Energy Usage
Traditionally, you would have to adjust your thermostat manually to keep your house at a comfortable temperature. With a smart thermostat, that isn’t necessary. You can program it to lower the temperature when you leave for work and raise it before you return so the house will be at a comfortable temperature while you’re home, but you won’t pay to heat it while it’s empty. You can also lower the temperature when you go to bed and use an extra blanket to keep warm.

Let the Sun Heat Your Home
If you have windows that face the sun, use that to your advantage. Open the shades or blinds when the sun is on that side of the house to allow its rays to heat the room. At night, cover the windows to keep heat inside.

Use Ceiling Fans to Distribute Warm Air
If you have a ceiling fan in one or more rooms, set it so the blades turn in a clockwise direction. That will cause warm air near the ceiling to be distributed down the walls and throughout the rest of the room.

Look for Ways to Save Money
For many homeowners, home heating costs are a major expense. High winter utility bills don’t have to be a fact of life. Follow these tips to keep your family warm and make your bills more manageable.