Avoiding Chills and High Bills

By — Valerie Finholm

The autumn chill feels a bit ominous this year. Halloween has passed, but energy prices have us spooked. We consulted some experts about inexpensive ways to winterize our homes (besides buying everyone in the family down booties and a warm comforter to wear inside the house.) Here are some suggestions (for more ideas, see “Hints From Heloise” below):

* Reduce drafts and save up to 30 percent on your heating bill by replacing cracked or broken windows and caulking gaps between windows and window frames and between doors and the floor. Use weather stripping on moveable window and door parts. Draft blockers (those things that look like snakes) also keep out drafts.

* Make sure your attic is well insulated. If you don’t have insulation in your attic, put down rugs or carpets to keep the heat in the house.

* Vacuum register grills and radiators and make sure they are not blocked with furniture or drapes.

* Install a programmable thermostat. If you don’t have one, turn down the thermostat when you go to work and to sleep at night to save energy. (Consult your plumber about how far you can safely turn down your thermostat without freezing your pipes.)

* Have a professional clean and tune your furnace for better energy efficiency. While the plumber is there, ask him or her to make sure your water heater is set at 120 degrees.

* Close the doors to unused rooms. The Department of Energy calculates that by closing the vents to one spare bedroom in a five-room house, you can cut your heating bills by as much as 20 percent.

* Use compact fluorescent light bulbs. Turn off your computer and monitor when not in use. Let the dishes in your dishwasher air dry.