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10 ways to cut home heating bills

The leaves are falling and so is the temperature. Ready to break out your flannel pajamas?

While bundling up is a great idea when the temperatures dip, you can take some steps to winterize your roost that will not only keep you warm, but also save you some money on your heating bill.

With energy costs climbing and budgets getting tighter, it makes sense to take advantage of savings opportunities, according to the Minnesota Society of Certified Public Accountants (MNCPA). The good news is you don't have to spend thousands in home improvements.

A few simple steps can help you save.

Close your curtains.

Get the curtains open and let the sun shine in, taking advantage of the natural warmth. When the afternoon light starts to fade, close the curtains to trap the heat.

Replace weather stripping.

Take a look at your exterior doors. If you see any daylight between the doorframe and the door, that's the perfect escape route for your heat and your money. Install new weather stripping to close that gap. Consider installing a storm door as well. Creating a layer of air between the inside and the outside will help keep drafts at bay.

Install a programmable thermostat.

According to the EPA, the average American family spends more than $2,200 a year on home energy bills, with about 50 percent of that for heating and cooling.

Consider setting your thermostat at about 68 degrees Fahrenheit during the day. If you're chilly, grab a sweater.

Research shows that for each additional degree you lower the temperature (in the 60- to 70-degree Fahrenheit range), you continue to save cash -- up to 5 percent on your heating bill.

You can program the thermostat to adjust the temperature while you're away or while you sleep.

Heat only the rooms you use.

Don't pay to heat rooms you don't use. Close off spare bedrooms, the attic, the basement, etc. If you're heading out of town for awhile, lower the heat and your hot water heater.

Don't go so low that you risk frozen pipes, but do consider dialing it back for savings when you're not going to be home.

Maintain your furnace.

It's easy to forget about that hulk of metal in the basement, but making sure your furnace is running in tip-top shape could save you money in the long run.

Have a licensed service company check your furnace each year. Don't forget to replace the filter.

Many experts recommend changing your filter every six months at the same time you change the batteries in your smoke detectors.

Close the fireplace damper.

This step may make it tough for Santa on Christmas Eve, but you'd be amazed at how much heat can escape up your chimney.

Close the damper and stop the drafts. Putting a glass front on your fireplace will also help.

Adjust your hot water heater.

Most hot water heaters are sent from the manufacturer preprogrammed to 140 degrees Fahrenheit.

A setting at 120 degrees Fahrenheit is likely adequate. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, lowering your water temperature 10 degrees will lower your energy costs by 3 to 5 percent.

Buy a blanket for your hot water heater.

It may sound like you're babying your hot water heater, but that's a good thing. Even when you're not showering or doing dishes, your hot water heater is drawing energy.

A special insulated blanket, which you can pick up for about $20, can help reduce the amount of energy your hot water heater uses.

Use ceiling fans correctly.

Most ceiling fans have two settings--summer and winter. When the weather cools, flip the toggle switch on the fan so that the blades rotate clockwise, moving warm air downward.

Rearrange the furniture.

Moving furniture away from cold exterior walls and making sure it's not on top of cold air intake or heating vents will help keep air circulating and make your space feel warmer.

Energy improvements can mean tax savings

If you'd like to make more significant changes to your home in search of energy improvements and savings, there's good news.

Tax credits may be available depending on the type of improvements you make.

Make sure you take advantage of these opportunities to reduce your tax liability at the same time you're improving your energy savings.