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Saving Money, Staying Warm: Winter Energy Efficiency Tips from Energy Star

WASHINGTON - The average family spends $2,200 a year on energy bills, nearly half of which goes to heating and cooling. With winter approaching and Americans heading indoors, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) Energy Star program is offering easy energy saving tips that increase household efficiency while helping Americans save money and stay warm.

EPA recommends taking the following steps this winter:

Maintain your heating equipment. Dirt and neglect are the top causes of heating system failure. If your heating equipment is more than 10 years old, now is a good time to schedule a pre-season checkup with a licensed contractor to make sure your system is operating at peak performance. Check your system's air filter every month and when it is dirty, change it. At a minimum, change it every three months.

Use a programmable thermostat. Control your home's temperature while you're away or asleep by using one of the pre-programmed settings. When used properly, programmable thermostats can save up to $180 every year in energy costs.

Seal air leaks in your home. If rooms are too hot/cold or you have noticed humidity or excessive dust problems you should consider taking action to seal air leaks. Sealing air leaks with caulk, spray foam, or weather stripping will have a significant impact on improving your comfort and reducing energy bills. If you are adding insulation to your home, be sure to seal air leaks first, to ensure you get the best performance from your insulation.

Utilize the Energy Star website. Use Energy Star's Home Energy Yardstick to compare your home's energy use to similar homes across the country and see how your home measures up. Energy Star's Home Energy Advisor can give recommendations for energy-saving home improvements for typical homes in your area.

Look for Energy Star qualified products. Whether you are replacing light bulbs or appliances in your home, Energy Star qualified products can help you save energy and reduce energy bills. The label can be found on more than 60 types of products ranging from heating and cooling equipment to compact fluorescent light bulbs (CFLs).

Energy Star was introduced by EPA in 1992 as a market-based partnership to reduce greenhouse gas emissions through energy-efficiency. Energy Star offers businesses and consumers energy-efficient solutions to decrease energy consumption, save money, and help protect the environment. More than 20,000 organizations are Energy Star partners, committed to improving energy-efficiency in homes, products, and businesses.

Information on cutting energy costs this winter: http://www.energystar.gov/heatingtips

Information on other ways to save energy year round: http://www.energystar.gov/changetheworld

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