Here are some things you can do to slash your energy bill this winter; some take only a minute and don’t require any upfront investment:

Lower the water heater temperature.

You can change the temperature on both electric and gas water heaters, according to Bruce Harley’s “Cut Your Energy Bills Now: 150 Smart Ways to Save Money & Make Your Home More Comfortable & Green.”

He suggests setting the temperature on the lowest setting comfortable – no lower than 120 degrees.

• Change the furnace setting.

Don’t leave the furnace fan running all day, says Harley. Switch the setting to auto and save between $100 and $500 a year on your electric bill.

Consider weatherstripping.

For doors that weren’t meant to be exterior doors, install a new weather-stripping kit. For older double hung windows that can be loose and leaky, Harley recommends pre-formed, V-shaped weatherstripping.

• Don’t use the fireplace.

Fireplaces are less efficient at heating homes than furnaces and produce a fair amount of pollution, according to Harley. Use it occasionally for the mood, he says.

Then make sure it’s shut down when you are not using it.

Make sure the damper is closed when the fireplace is not in use and that it’s a tight seal, says David Lupberger, home improvement expert for

fy things like air leaks, missing insulation and leaky duct work, says Harley. He recommends looking for someone with a RESNET (Residential Energy Services Network) or BPI (Building Performance Institute) certification. RESNET certifies home energy raters. BPI certifies building analysts. Consumers should also check with their local utility company to see if it offers significant technical support or help paying for the work, says Harley.

– Check electrical outlets for air leaks.

Outlets can be like holes in the wall letting in cold air, says Lupberger. Consider insulated covers, he says.

– Wrap the water heater

Consider purchasing an insulation blanket and wrapping it around your hot water heater, says Lupberger. That will keep the heat from escaping.

– Check your heating and cooling system.

If you have a central air conditioning unit, hire a qualified person to check the refrigerant charge and air flow through the system, says Harley. He says you should only need to do this once unless something seems wrong. If you have a gas furnace, have it cleaned and tuned every three years, he says.

– Check insulation.

For older homes, check exterior walls and attic for insulation, says Harley. If there is no insulation in the walls or only a little in attic, consider hiring someone to install it.

– Check ducts.

If there is duct work in the attic, chances are it probably has a lot of leaks in it and needs to be sealed, regardless of the age of the home, says Harley. If you have ducts that need to be sealed, get a referral from the home energy auditor or look for someone who is NATE (North American Technician Excellence) certified or an ACCA (Air Conditioning Contractors of America) member, says Harley.

– Unplug appliances.

The things that tend to use electricity when they are plugged in, even when they’re turned off, include televisions, DVD players, digital video recorders, printers, fax machines, and computers, says Harley. Use a power strip for things that don’t need to be on when you’re not at home. For the computer, Harley says don’t use the screen saver; turn the monitor off or put the whole computer in stand by. Also unplug cell phone chargers when the phones aren’t charging, he says. The same rule applies for hand-held vacuums.

AP-ES-01-06-09 1636EST

Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.