Tips to Cut Your Heating Bill this Winter As the weather cools, consumers may face higher heating bills. Madeleine Brand talks to Day to Day's regular personal finance commentator Michelle Singletary about simple ways to cut down on heating costs when taking hot showers, adjusting thermostats and maintaining furnaces.
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Tips to Cut Your Heating Bill this Winter

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Tips to Cut Your Heating Bill this Winter

Tips to Cut Your Heating Bill this Winter

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MADELEINE BRAND, host:

Winter is on the way, and for many of us it feels like it's already here. We've got the heat turned up high. The federal government says that the average household will pay nearly $1,000 to stay warm this season. So what can you do to avoid a high energy bill this winter? Well, joining us is Michelle Singletary. She writes the syndicated column, "The Color of Money," and she's our personal finance contributor here on DAY TO DAY. Hi, Michelle.

MICHELLE SINGLETARY: Hi.

BRAND: Well, so tell us some of the top things people can do to lower their heating bills.

SINGLETARY: You know, the things I'm going to tell you are fairly inexpensive if you do them regularly. One thing is have your furnace serviced. You should do this before the winter starts every single year. Listen, when's the last time you replaced the filters on your heat pump? Gas furnaces have dirty filters and they need to be cleaned. In fact, you should be changing your filter every one to two months. Now I know a lot of folks aren't doing that. That's one way to cut down on your energy bill.

And you need to do this. My husband made me do it. Get one of those automatic thermostats so that it will set your thermostat according to when you're home and when you're not. So when you're out for the day, it lowers it so the house is cool and you don't use up energy; and when you drive up, it'll click on and the house will be nice and warm - maybe not toasty - but warm for you come in.

And listen, all of you who are going to be putting those Christmas lights out, get a timer for those lights so they're not on all night long using up all that energy. Lots of experts say you should only have your lights on for about six hours because, you know, after 10:00 you should be in bed anyway.

(Soundbite of laughter)

BRAND: Lights out.

SINGLETARY: Lights out, that's right.

BRAND: Michelle says lights out.

SINGLETARY: That's right.

(Soundbite of laughter)

BRAND: Okay, well, speaking of discipline, what temperature should people keep their thermostat at?

SINGLETARY: You should keep it between 68 and 70 degrees. Now I'm going to be honest. Mine is a little higher than that, probably between 72 and, you know, if my husband's not looking, I might inch it up to 74, but really between 68 and 70. And if you do that, you can save yourself between 1 and 3 percent on your energy bill. And at a thousand dollars for the winter season, that still adds up.

BRAND: Which, Michelle, would save you more money - a warm bath or a warm shower?

SINGLETARY: A warm shower. Now lots of people like their baths, but, you know, bathing uses more hot water in the average household, up to 25 gallons. So a five-minute shower uses less hot water and could add up to a lot of savings on your energy bill. So get in there, get out of there in five minutes and save yourself some money.

BRAND: You know, that's surprising. I always hear it was the shower that wasted more water.

SINGLETARY: Well, because, you know, think about the average tub that we have in households now. Those are Jacuzzi tubs with the jets and the, you know. I mean it's like a pool almost, you know?

(Soundbite of laughter)

BRAND: Yeah, you could take a bath with someone. That would save some water.

SINGLETARY: I have, and it does. But I'm also married.

(Soundbite of laughter)

BRAND: Michelle Singletary's our regular guest on matters of personal finance. Her latest book is "Your Money and Your Man: How You and Prince Charming Can Spend Well and Live Rich" in the bathtub. Thank you, Michelle.

SINGLETARY: You're welcome.

BRAND: And if you have money questions for Michelle, we'd love to answer them. Go to our Web site, npr.org. Click on the Contact Us link, that's at the top of every page. Be sure to include Michelle in your subject line.

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