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Save on heating bills in the winter months

Wait a minute _ it's not supposed to get cold in Florida, right? Then why is it the inside of your home sometimes feels so frosty this time of year? It can get surprisingly chilly here, especially at night. With prices higher this year for heating oil, natural gas and propane, this is a good time to consider some energy-saving tips.

1. TAP HEAT THAT'S THERE ANYWAY. There are plenty of activities you do around the house that generate warmth, such as cooking a meal or taking a shower. When you shower, keep the bathroom door open so steam spreads to other rooms, and don't turn a ventilation fan on; it will rapidly remove the warm air you're hoping to keep around.

2. LEARN TO LOVE SOCKS. If your feet are cold, your whole body will feel cold, so make a point of wearing socks around the house in the winter. The next step if you're still feeling cold: Bundle up in a sweater or a blanket rather than cranking up the heat.

3. MAKE YOUR BED. Particularly if you have a water bed, your covers will help maintain its heat.

4. LOWER YOUR THERMOSTAT. You likely won't notice a huge difference if you turn it down just a few degrees, a move that can shave 5 to 10 percent off your heating bill. It's especially wise to turn down the heat whenever you leave your home for several hours.

5. CONSIDER A PROGRAMMABLE THERMOSTAT. They cost between $30 and $100, but that's money you're sure to make back over the course of a year because your heating bills will drop. A programmable thermostat allows you to adjust the heat on a predetermined schedule, so you can lower the heat when you're not home or when you're sleeping.

6. WATCH THAT WATER HEATER. It's also not likely to be noticeable if you turn down the thermostat on your water heater to, say, 120 degrees from about 140 degrees.

7. USE COLD WATER TO WASH YOUR CLOTHES. And only turn on your washer, dryer and dishwasher when you have a full load.

8. KEEP WINDOWS COVERED WHEN IT'S DARK OUTSIDE. This will help you keep cold air at bay, especially if you have older windows. But be sure to let in the light during the daytime _ those rays of sun will help heat your home.

9. LIGHT A CANDLE. Not for warmth, but for the purpose of doing a little sleuth work. Hold the flame near windows, doors and light fixtures and look for smoke moving in a horizontal direction. If you see it, that means you've spotted an air leak, and it likely means heat is escaping your home easily. To solve that problem, install some low-cost caulking or weather-stripping, or consider adding some insulating material.

10. CHECK YOUR FURNACE. At least once a year, find out whether your furnace or heat pumps are working well. That might call for some maintenance by a professional, but you also can improve the system's efficiency simply by replacing the filters.

Sources: CBS MarketWatch (http://cbs.marketwatch.com); the Associated Press (www.ap.org); USA Today (www.usatoday.com); TipKing.com (www.tipking.com); U.S. Energy Department's Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (www.energysavers.gov).

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