Cool Down High Heating Costs
Oil and natural gas prices are headed through the roof this winter. So do what it takes to keep that precious heat indoors, where it belongs
By Stephanie D. Smith

(MONEY Magazine) – Brace yourself for a sharp increase in the cost of keeping your family warm. The Energy Information Administration projects that the bill for heating an average home with gas will rise 15% in 2005, to $1,003, while costs for oil heat will jump 37% to $1,309. But no need to get goose bumps. Invest a day or less taking these simple measures, and you could save 30% or more on your heating bills.

ADD INSULATION Make sure your attic insulation is up to your state's recommended code; typically, an R-value of 49 is suggested. Put blankets around pipes and hot-water heaters to help keep your utility bill from being a cold bath.

CLOSE THE EXITS Shut the fireplace damper when you don't have a fire going. (And don't keep the home fires burning: It actually draws heat out of your home through the flue.) Turn off any kitchen or bathroom exhaust fans. In one hour, you can lose enough heat through these openings to warm the whole house.

LOWER THE THERMOSTAT Turning down the setting from 72° to 65° for eight hours a day while you work or sleep can cut your heating costs by 10%. For each degree that you lower the temperature, you can save 3%.

PLUG THE HOLES Covering openings that allow cold air in can cut 10% off your heating bill. Caulk any cracks in the windows, walls and plumbing. Replace worn weatherstripping around doors. Repair any holes in heating ducts.

CHECK THE FURNACE If you have a forced-air furnace, clean or replace the filters every month to boost energy efficiency. If the furnace is more than 12 years old, replace it with a new, energy-efficient model, which can cut heating costs by 30%.

INSULATE YOURSELF Invest in a good down comforter and, say, a cashmere sweater or wrap so you can keep the house cooler. Look for down with a fill power of at least 550 (the higher the fill power, the more warmth provided) and cashmere that's at least a two-ply weight.