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Stay warm and save energy this winter 

Knowing how your home is heated is the first step in making informed decisions on your energy use. It also helps you prepare for upcoming bills. Systems include forced-air furnaces, the most common type, heat pumps and baseboard heaters. 

If you have a forced-air system, check the filter regularly and replace when it’s dirty. If you don’t know what type of system you have, find the model number of your equipment and look it up online for information on servicing and efficiency.

The easiest and lowest-cost way to save money on heating is to keep your thermostat as low as your comfort will allow. The U.S. Department of Energy recommends a thermostat setting of 68 degrees in the winter while you are awake and lower when you are asleep or away from home. However, setting the temperature too low can cause pipes to freeze or moisture issues. And, importantly, if you have a heat pump, do not change the settings more than one degree in heat mode. This can kick on auxiliary heat, which is three or four times more expensive. 

Space heaters 

Using electric resistance space heaters to heat a room or small section of your home can increase your electric bill.

For example, using a 1,500-watt electric space heater to warm your living room for two hours a day will cost you about $15 per month (based on average U.S. electricity rates). Operating it for 12 hours a day: $90 a month. 

If you choose to use space heaters, use them safely. This month’s Safety Moment column tells you how to do this. 

MIRANDA BOUTELLE writes on energy efficiency for the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association.

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