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    More than half of the average utility bill is devoted to heating and cooling the home. With temperatures dropping with the winter months ahead, homeowners are cranking up their heating systems. Whether heating with natural gas (the most common method), electricity, or oil homeowners can save money by keeping equipment maintained and upgraded.

    However, the Department of Energy (DOE) says that it takes more than an energy-efficient furnace to attain savings during the winter months. Adding proper insulation, sealing drafty windows and doors, as well as adjusting the thermostat more frequently can help to cut energy costs in half. There are also a variety of other ways homeowners can save on their energy bill that takes little effort.

    Here's advice from the agency on how to save energy this winter:

    • Set the programmable thermostat as low as is comfortable and lower the temperature when sleeping or away from the home.
    • Clean or replace the furnace filters once a month or as recommended.
    • Clean warm-air registers, baseboard heaters, and radiators; make sure they are not blocked by furniture, carpeting, or curtains.
    • Eliminate trapped air from hot-water radiators once or twice a season; if unsure how to do it properly, contact a professional.
    • Put heat-resistant radiator reflectors between exterior walls and the radiators.
    • Turn off kitchen, bath, and other exhaust fans within 20 minutes after cooking or bathing. If replacing exhaust fans, consider installing high-efficiency, low-noise models.
    • Keep the draperies and shades on the south-facing windows open during the day to allow sunlight to enter your home and closed at night.
    • One of the easiest ways to save is to set the thermostat to 68F when awake and to set it lower while away from home or sleeping. By turning the thermostat back 10 to 15 degrees for eight hours, homeowners can save 5 to 15 percent a year on heating bills, according to the DOE.