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Save money on energy bills

Insulating your home and keeping your car well maintained could help you cut your energy costs, Gerri Willis explains.

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By Gerri Willis, CNN

NEW YORK (CNNMoney.com) -- Rising oil and gas prices are putting the squeeze on everyone's budget. Here are top tips on how to save money on energy.

1: Get the outlook

We've seen oil prices at above $100 a barrel, and it could get worse, according to some analysts.

Peter Beutel of Energy Risk Management firm Cameron Hanover says barring a recession or fervent conservationist movement, oil will keep right on rising to levels that could reach $150.

We all know that gas prices are on the rise. The average is now above $3.00. The Energy Information Administration predicts record gasoline prices by spring will be $3.40 or more.

But some analysts say this is not the beginning of a new normal. Oil prices will return to stable levels in three to 15 months, says Tom Kloza of the Oil Price Information Service.

And there is a ceiling on how high gas prices will go. According to Kloza, that ceiling is $3.50-$3.75. And prices will likely go down in the second half of the year.

The downside, diesel fuel - the gas that tankers and truckers use to transport food and raw materials - is likely to stay high for a while. And that means higher costs for consumer goods.

2: Insulate yourself

If you heat your home with oil, this winter has been especially costly. But there are steps you can take to cut your costs.

Keep in mind that even if your home is relatively new, just five to ten years old, you may not have enough insulation according to the North American Insulation Manufacturing Association.

One of the cheapest and most effective ways to cut down on your heating bills is to add insulation to your home.

Get the R-Value of your current insulation. An R-Value is a measure of how well insulation keeps heat inside your house. See how much more insulation you may need by going to Energystar.gov or simplyinsulate.org.

You can find insulation at your local home improvement store. Fiberglass is the cheapest option, but you may also want to consider using cellulose insulation. It's still relatively cheap and made largely of recycled material.

3: Get assistance

If you're having trouble making payments on your heating bill, you should first contact your local utility company. You may be able to work out a payment plan.

Don't forget most states have a moratorium so that utility companies can't shut off your service during the winter.

There is also a federal program that is available for the elderly and people with low income. It's called LIHEAP. That stands for Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program. To see if you qualify, call the National Energy Assistance Referral (NEAR) project at 1-866-674-6327.

If you don't qualify for LIHEAP, check out National Fuel Funds at www.nationalfuelfunds.org to see if there are any local fuel funds that can help you out. Often there are other organizations like the Salvation Army or Catholic Charities that can help you.

4: Maintain your car

Maintenance is vital to getting the best fuel economy you can.

For starters, check your tires. Under-inflated tires damage your mileage by increasing resistance and making it more difficult for the engine to move the car along the road.

You can save a couple cents per gallon by using the exact oil recommended for your car. You'll find that info in your owner's manual.

And make sure your engine is tuned. An improperly tuned engine hurts gas mileage by an average of 4.1%, according to U.S. government studies. To top of page

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Market indexes are shown in real time, except for the DJIA, which is delayed by two minutes. All times are ET. Disclaimer Morningstar: © 2014 Morningstar, Inc. All Rights Reserved. Disclaimer The Dow Jones IndexesSM are proprietary to and distributed by Dow Jones & Company, Inc. and have been licensed for use. All content of the Dow Jones IndexesSM © 2014 is proprietary to Dow Jones & Company, Inc. Chicago Mercantile Association. The market data is the property of Chicago Mercantile Exchange Inc. and its licensors. All rights reserved. FactSet Research Systems Inc. 2014. All rights reserved. Most stock quote data provided by BATS.