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Wednesday, March 8, 2017 issue

Simple solutions to put home-heating costs on ice

01/03/2007 - Winter weather can take a toll on personal finances as homeowners raise the thermostat to counter cooling temperatures. Maintaining a comfortable climate indoors is one of the largest monthly expenses a homeowner faces. According to Mary Caraccioli, financial expert and host of "Money Matters Today" on CN8, The Comcast Network, one of the best ways to save money on your monthly bills is to focus attention on home heating conservation.

"Forty-five percent of your energy bill goes to heating or cooling your home," Caraccioli says. "This is a great area to target if you are looking to lower your household expenses this winter."

Caraccioli offers the following seven easy ways to reduce household heating costs:

1) Inspect your equipment: Before it gets cold outside, take a look at your furnace, or hire a professional, to make sure it is in good working condition. "Starting early eliminates the chance of being charged a premium price for work when you need it most — not leaving you to the mercy of the contractor," says Caraccioli. "Should something be broken, you will have the time to shop around for the best price for repair or replacement."

2) Upgrade: Energy-efficient equipment can save money by reducing the amount of energy needed to power the appliance. Plus, these models can offer added financial benefit, Caraccioli says. "Many energy-efficient products qualify for federal tax credits," she offers. "This saves you money on your tax bills, just remember to keep the dated receipt handy for filing." When shopping for furnaces, look for high Annual Fuel Utilization Efficiency (AFUE) ratings. The national minimum is 78 percent AFUE, but there are "Energy Star" models that are more than 90 percent AFUE.

3) Turn down the thermostat: Don't spend money heating your house while no one is in it. Set the temperature to something below comfort level, but high enough to prevent damage inside the home. "Programmable thermostats are a good investment because they allow temperatures to be set for specific times during the day," Caraccioli say. "The heat can turn on before you get home from work, and go off when the family retires to bed."

4) Let the light in: Simply opening curtains or blinds during the day lets warm sunlight into a home, naturally heating the room. "Also, cutting back branches and bushes around the windows allows more sunlight to enter a room," Caraccioli suggests.

5) Draw the drapes: Consider hanging heavy curtains during cold months. Closing the drapes at nighttime can provide an extra layer of protection from drafty windows.

6) Help the heat source: Check all warm air registers, baseboard heaters or radiators to make sure they can do their job and aren't blocked by furniture, rugs or drapes. "Just moving a sofa a few inches away from the baseboard allows the heat to circulate more efficiently," Caraccioli says. Also, if you have baseboard heaters with moveable vents, make sure they are open in the winter and closed in the summer.

7) Filter first: Clean or replace furnace filters and the intake vents of central heating/cooling systems. Clogged filters and vents can force a system to have to work harder and, in turn, expend more energy.

"Reducing heating costs this season is easier than you'd think," Caraccioli says. "The end result is a comfortable home and lower bills — something every homeowner can appreciate."

For more money-saving advice, tune into "Money Matters Today," weeknights from 6 to 6:30 p.m. ET exclusively on CN8, The Comcast Network. CN8 is the nation's preeminent regional 24-hour cable network, producing live, original and interactive programming covering the worlds of sports, politics, personal finance, issue, entertainment, and more. Viewers can get more information or watch the show on CN8's Web site at

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