snowhouseUS (12/5/2012) - Cold weather often means turning up the heat in an effort to stay warm. Saving energy this time of year may seem impossible. However, there are ways to conserve even when the mercury dips. Simply turning down the thermostat a degree or two can add up to considerable energy savings, but there are other strategies that can be used.

* Figure out your comfortable temperature and reduce it. Find a lower thermostat temperature you can tolerate and turn the heat down. Then wear heavier clothing around the house. If you wear socks and slippers around the house, you may not even notice a difference.

* Vary the temperature. Lowering energy bills means being flexible with the thermostat. Invest in a programmable model that can make automatic adjustments depending on the time of day. Set the temperature a few degrees warmer when you're home, but keep it lower during those hours when you're away. It doesn't make sense to heat an empty house so set thermostat lower when you leave for work. Do the same at night when you will be under the covers.

* Invest in a humidifier. Moisture in the air helps it feel warmer than dry air. Purchase a humidifier that will blow moisture droplets into a room or place a pot of water on a radiator. You also can boil water on the stove. Having moisture in the air also can help reduce scratchy throats and dry noses from breathing in dry air. Your skin also may be less prone to cracks and itchiness.

* Run the fireplace sparingly. Having a blazing fire indoors can be warm and cozy in the room where the fire is lit. But that warm fire may be making rooms colder elsewhere in the house. That's because a fire needs a constant draw of air to remain lit. It will be pulling air from the home to feed the fire and then exhausting it through the furnace. When the fireplace is not in use, keep the flue closed.

* Insulate the windows. Drafty windows can make a home cold, increasing the likelihood that the home's inhabitants will turn up the heat. Caulk around window trims and try to seal any holes where cold air can infiltrate. Replacement windows are an expensive investment, but they may be worth it if you have old, drafty windows. If you cannot afford new windows right now, seal windows in a plastic film or use thick, insulating curtains to block drafts.

* Turn down a water heater thermostat. The United States Department of Energy states that water heating can account for 14 percent to 25 percent of the energy consumed in your home. Keep the water heater set to "warm" to reduce energy consumption and also to avoid the risk of scalding from hot water.

* Rely on natural sunlight to keep warm. When the sun is out, open south-facing window curtains to let in the sun to warm the room, naturally.

Reduce energy use this winter by employing some handy tips. 

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