With the portents of the double-dip recession lurking around corner, now is the perfect time to start considering how you can save money on your heating and winterization costs. It is estimated that the average U.S. family spends US$1,900 annually on their utility bills. The majority of the $1,900 accounts for the gas or electrical heating systems which are installed on their properties. With this in mind, the following tips may help you to save money while keeping your loved ones warm and creating a comfortable home for the winter. (For more winter tips, read Home Winterizing Tips That Work.)

TUTORIAL: Budgeting Basics

Household Heating: Consider the Options
Whenever you move into a brand new property, it is always tempting to retain the existing gas or electrical heating system, as the cost of having a new one installed can be surprisingly steep. However, this does not take into account the potential for long term savings. Investing in an energy efficient system can more than repay its value over time. The geothermal heat pump (GHP) is currently the most cost effective option on the market, and works by heating ground water to a consistent temperature of around 55oF.

It may require expert assistance to install, but a GHP can use as much as 50% less electricity than conventional heating systems. In effect, a U.S. household's utility bill could be slashed to less than $1,000 each year, while the environment would benefit from the energy efficient technology. These ground pumps are also soundless, unlike traditional gas heating systems which can be extremely noisy when hot water is running. Consider all of your heating options and think about your long term savings and your budget.

Home Insulation: Useful In Winter Months
Home insulation, often referred to as cavity insulation, is a cast iron money saver during the winter months because it regulates the flow of heat from a warm area to a cold one. Typically, the colder it is outside the faster the warm air from inside escapes, which can leave your heating system on all through the day without any noticeable difference to the temperature. Cavity wall insulation slows down the rate at which warm air escapes your property, keeping each room of your house warm even when it is bitterly cold outside.

Of course, there are financial benefits to this. Throughout the day, your home should remain sufficiently warm for your heating to operate on a timer rather than being left on constantly. Instead of your heating system wasting energy and your money through constant and unnecessary use, your heating can be regulated and used far more sparingly with insulated internal and external walls. The best thing of all is that it is surprisingly affordable to get this work carried out in the first place. Contact your local contractor now for a estimate. (To learn more, see 9 Ways To Save On Winter Bills.)

Seek Free Expert Advice
There are a lot of simple ways to reduce your heating costs in the winter. For example, ensuring that light switches and appliances are switched off is a simple and manageable way of keeping costs down, and there are even affordable gadgets to help you achieve this. A standby saver is small device which makes it easier than ever to switch off a device or appliance. According to figures from the UK, 15 million household televisions are left on standby for 20 hours every day.

Alternatively, why not hire a local electricity company to perform an audit of your property? Many of the smaller, independent firms offer these free of charge, and their expert staff will attend your property and offer helpful suggestions on where you could make energy and cost savings. This could involve you changing your light fittings from incandescent to fluorescent, or even changing your gas and electric service providers, and will help you to save money on the daily, weekly and annual costs of your household heating.

The Bottom Line
These tips will help you to keep hold of some of those hard-earned dollars, especially during those cold and dark months of winter. Not only this, but they will also help to make significant energy savings on a daily basis, so you can rest assured that you are contributing towards the well-being of the environment. Remember that while some cost effective methods of heating and energy conservation may not be cheap to install, you are investing in equipment that will more than repay its cost over the course of annual usage. (For other ways to save money on your energy bills in the winter and summer, read Ten Ways To Save Energy And Money.)

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