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Ways to help save money and energy at home this winter

For many people in Carbon county, last winter not only meant some of the highest home energy costs since the 1970s, but also cutting back on personal expenditures. And after the summer's energy shortages and high utility bills, it's never too early to prepare a home for this season's expected energy costs.

According to the Energy Information Administration (EIA), natural gas prices in the winter of 2000 to 2001 more than doubled from the previous winter's average price.

Americans can help lower their heating bills by making these simple energy-saving home improvements now:

Add another layer of attic insulation. Since the majority of homes built before 1980 are under-insulated, heat can escape through the ceiling, past the roof and into the atmosphere. According to the Department of Energy, one of the easiest and most cost-effective ways to help cut heating and cooling costs, and to make a home more comfortable, is to add more insulation in the attic. As a general rule, if you have less than 11 to 12 inches of attic insulation, you probably need more.

Turn on the humidifier. It's not just the heat; it's also the humidity. If your furnace doesn't have a built-in humidifier, use a portable unit in frequently occupied areas like the bedroom and living room. The additional moisture will increase the "heat index" inside of your home, making 68 F feel more like 76 F.

Install a programmable thermostat. Why heat the house when nobody is home? A programmable thermostat can automatically lower and raise your home's air temperature when you are at work or sleeping. By simply turning your thermostat from 72 F down to 65 F for eight hours a day, you can save as much as 10 percent on your annual heating and cooling costs.

Seal the ducts. The most logical way to stay warm is to only heat only living areas, not the attic or unfinished basement. However, in many homes, the warm air generated by the furnace often escapes into the attic or basement before it reaches its intended destination because of cracks or holes in the air ducts.

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