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Save energy moneyand reduce footprint

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McLEAN, Va. (12/28/09)--So you’re probably not one of those folks participating in the “furnace abstinence” contest in New Jersey. Nonetheless, people across the nation are doing all they can to save energy and money--and to reduce their carbon footprint. (USA Today Dec. 14). There are many ways to control energy costs, according to Alliant Energy’s PowerHouse TV, an educational program designed to help you improve the energy efficiency, safety, and comfort of your home. They include:
* Do an energy audit. This simple survey--that you complete online--analyzes your appliances and insulation, home’s structure and family lifestyle. Some utility companies offer a free audit for customers. The U.S. Department of Energy offers one as well (http://hes.lbl.gov/). * Vacuum vents and registers. And don’t let draperies and furniture block air flow. Plastic deflectors help direct air under tables and chairs. * Install a programmable thermostat. By setting back the temp 10 degrees for eight hours each night, you can lower your heating bill by about 10%. * Turn it down while you’re gone. If you’re heading on vacation, set the thermostat to 55 degrees. You’ll save energy, but won’t have to worry about pipes freezing. * Let the sun shine in. Close blinds and curtains at night to keep cold air out; open them during the day to let the sun warm rooms. * Throw a rug. If you have tile or hardwood floors, use throw rugs to keep your toes warm. * Hire an inspector. An annual furnace tune-up can help reduce heating costs by 5%, and forestall carbon monoxide dangers as well. * Don’t close registers in unused rooms. If you have a forced-air furnace, it’s designed to heat a specific square footage and can’t sense a closed register--it continues working at the same pace. Cold air from unheated rooms can get into the rest of your house, minimizing how well your insulation and weatherizing works. * Change air filters. Check your filter every month, especially during heavy use months, according to energystar.gov. At a minimum, change filters every three months. Dirty filters slow down air flow, making the system work harder. Clean filters help prevent dirt and dust buildup.
These precautions not only can save you energy and money, they can also extend the life of your furnace. To learn about the life expectancy of this and other appliances, read “Longevity on the Home Front: How Long Will That Furnace Last?” in Home & Family Finance Resource Center.