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Nov. 5: Dollars and Sense

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By The Staff

Home heating prices have skyrocketed in recent years, leaving people scrambling to find ways to cut their energy expenses. Given the soaring cost of fuel in recent months, there’s good reason to believe this year will be another expensive one. There are ways to conserve energy and lower your heating bills without sacrificing your own comfort. Here are some suggestions.

Watch your thermostat

Many people make the mistake of setting their thermostat once when the cold weather arrives and then forgetting about it. If your house is the same temperature 24 hours a day, then you’re almost certainly wasting money on fuel costs. It’s a good idea to lower the temperature when you’re out during the day and at night. That simple step can make a significant dent in your expenses. You can do this yourself or install a programmable thermostat, which you can set to raise and lower the temperature at different times of day. Consider also lowering the temperature a couple of degrees overall. You probably won’t notice the difference, and it will help to minimize your heating bills.

Put your curtains to work

The sun can be a powerful heating source, so make use of it in your home. Opening your curtains during the daylight hours lets sunlight in to warm your house. When you close them at night, you conserve the warmth that natural light and your home’s heating elements have supplied during the day.

Plug those leaks

Some of the greatest heat losses in older homes are due to undiscovered air leaks. The gaps around windows and doors, for example, allow heat to escape and cold air to seep in. Caulk and weather-stripping or storm windows can solve the problems, but you may want to consider replacing older, chronically leaky windows or doors with new energy efficient models. These purchases may pay for themselves if they provide better insulation and prevent leaks.

Windows and doors aren’t the only culprits, however. You might also be losing heat through openings around plumbing pipes, through the fireplace if the dampers aren’t properly closed and through electrical outlets and switches on exterior walls. Check all of these places for drafts as the winter weather sets in. Your local hardware dealer should be able to provide advice on how to address each problem.

Keep it covered

Insulation is an excellent defense against heat loss, especially in the attic of an older home. By installing proper insulation, you can prevent heat from rising up to the top floor and seeping out through a leaky attic.

In addition, covering your water heater with an insulating “jacket” will keep the warmth inside the heater. It’s also a good idea to wrap exposed water pipes, especially those that are in an uninsulated basement. These steps make it possible to conserve the warmth you’re paying for, rather than letting it leak out into the air.

Consult your CPA

These are some of the many smart steps that you can take to reduce your heating costs. Your local CPA can offer more advice on smart ways to stretch your dollar. Consult him or her with any questions on issues that affect your family’s finances.

Dollars and Sense is a weekly column contributed by the Kentucky Society of CPAs to help readers with financial matters. For a referral to a CPA in your area, go to kycpa.org or call (502) 266-5272 or (800) 292-1754.