It's been unseasonably cold in many parts of the country this winter. Here are some simple and relatively cheap ways you can save up to hundreds of dollars as your heating bills roll in.
Use curtains -- Open curtains and shades on south-facing windows during the day and close them at night to help slow the escape of the heat.
Block drafts -- According to the U.S. Department of Energy, drafts can waste five to 30 percent of a home’s energy use. Check for drafts around windows, doors and any areas with holes or gaps such as attics and basements, then install door sweeps and use weatherproof caulking and weather-stripping to contain them.
Use fans wisely -- A hard-working bathroom or kitchen fan can expel a houseful of warm air in just one hour, according to the Department of Energy. Turn them off as soon as they have done their job.
Keep the fireplace damper closed -- Heat rises, and an open damper is like a hole in the roof. Also, limit your use of the fireplace ,since fires actually suck heat from a room.
Swaddle water pipes and heaters -- Covering your water heater with an insulated "jacket" will keep costs down, especially if your heater is in an unheated place like a garage. Also, wrap water pipes when possible, especially when they run through uninsulated areas.
Insulate your home -- Air sealing your home and adding insulation in attics, floors over crawl spaces and accessible basement rim joists can save you up to 20 percent on heating and cooling costs.
Service your furnace -- Schedule a professional furnace inspection and service appointment. This will include filter replacements, motor and fan cleaning and an inspection to check that the blower and gas piping are fully functioning.
Buy a low-flow shower head -- A water-efficient shower head uses between 25 percent to 50 percent less hot water, saving both on water and power bills.
Turn down your thermostat -- You can expect to save about 3 percent on your heating bill for every degree that you set back your thermostat full time, according to the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy. Turn it down 10 degrees when you're at work and in bed and you can save 14 percent.
Use a programmable thermostat -- Programmable thermostats offer the ability to regulate your home’s temperature according to the time of day or day of the week. By programming lower temperatures during the day while the house is empty, heating costs can be drastically reduced without compromising comfort.
Keep heating vents clear -- Vents blocked by rugs and furniture can prevent heat from circulating efficiently.
Turn down the water heater -- Lowering the temperature of water in the water heater to 115 to 120 degrees cuts power use -- often without a noticeable difference to the homeowner.
Several Santa Barbara County Sheriff's Deputies and a helicopter were called to the Kmart parking lot and surrounding businesses when two suspected shoplifters took off towards Hollister Ave. this afternoon.