Consumer Reports: How to save money by cutting heating bill this winter

It can cost a lot of money to heat your home during the winter, but there are ways to cut your bill.

As much as half of the energy used in your home goes to heating and cooling it. This winter, Consumer Reports has some tips to keep the heat in your house, and some money in your wallet.

For easy energy savings, turn down your thermostats, either manually or using smart or programmable ones. Dial the temperature back by ten to fifteen degrees whenever you're away from the house for a long period of time.

Next, keep warm air inside with weather-stripping and draft blockers around doors and windows. Use caulk or expandable foam sealant to fill bigger openings around windows. And insulated outlet covers keep drafts out for just pennies apiece.

"Don't waste money heating crawl spaces and other unused parts of your house. Uninsulated ductwork does just that," said Consumer Reports Home Editor Paul Hope. "It's worth hiring a pro to wrap ducts with insulation."

Dirty furnace filters reduce air flow, and can lead to pricey repairs. During the cold season, check your furnace or heat pump filters monthly.

"An inefficient furnace or boiler uses more energy to work harder," Hope said. "It's worth hiring a pro to come once a year to tighten electrical connections, inspect valves, and lubricate moving parts, all of which will help the system work more smoothly."

A wood-burning fireplace can keep you toasty when it's lit, but over 90-percent of the heat they generate can go out the chimney, along with heated air from the room.

"Consider retrofitting it with a more efficient gas insert, or with an EPA-certified wood fireplace insert," Hope said.

Sitting by a fire is sure comfy and so is the good feeling that you've lowered your utility bills.

Those drafty spots around the house really can be a money-waster. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, if you added up all the cracks and gaps in a typical home, the energy loss would be the same as having one window open all the time, so get that weather-stripping in.

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