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5 steps to slash your heating bill

Winter temperatures are setting in quick, which means it's once again time to fire up the heater, even here in the Southwest. Unfortunately, when you get your heating bill each month it might seem like it would be less expensive to heat your house by burning piles of money.

According to the Massachusetts Department of Energy Resources, the average U.S. household spends just over $2,000 a year on energy, and it's $2,700 if you live in New England. For the greater United States, just over 40% of that is for space heating, and in New England it's 60%. So anything you can do to bring down your heating costs can save you big money.

The good news is you don't have to pay an arm and a leg to keep your family warm and toasty. We have five simple steps that will easily shave dollars from your monthly energy bills. Try these tips and watch your bills drop!

1. Take control of the temperature

One of the easiest ways to lower your heating bills is to install a programmable thermostat. These can range anywhere from $20 for a basic model to several hundred dollars for a top-of-the-line "smart" thermostat, such as the Nest.

With a regular programmable thermostat, you can drop the temperature while you're away at work or at night when you're bundled up in bed. A "smart" thermostat will learn your routines and preferences, so no programming is required. Either way, you're only heating the house when you actually need the warmth, and that brings savings.

Also, if you want to reduce the temperature on the thermostat without sacrificing warmth, you can use a portable space heater in specific rooms. Set your thermostat a few degrees lower than you normally would, then position the space heater nearby to make up the difference. That way, you won't waste money heating up rooms you rarely use, like that empty guest room.

Next page: Know the best times to heat
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