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Opinion: WVPSC chairman tells how to cut your heating bill and stay safe

By Charlotte Lane, chairman

West Virginia Public Service Commission

Fall has finally arrived, nights are getting cooler and heating season is almost here.  The Public Service Commission frequently hears from customers whose heating bills have gotten out of hand.  I would like to share some helpful tips to help you proactively save money on your utility bills.

Charlotte R. Lane

Start with the basics.  A clean, well operating heating unit runs more efficiently than one that is dirty or in need of maintenance.  Now is the time to have a professional check your heat pump or furnace and make any necessary repairs.  Get into the habit of changing the filters monthly.  If you use natural gas heat, be sure to install a carbon monoxide detector.  If you ever smell gas in your home you should leave the house immediately without turning on or off any electric switches and call your utility company.  Learn the location of your gas shutoff valve in case of an emergency.

It’s a good idea to insulate your heating ductwork and make sure the joints are properly sealed.  Uninsulated ducts can lose up to 60% of the heat your furnace produces before it reaches the vents.  While you’re at it, make sure your vents are clear so air can flow freely.  Close the vents and shut the doors to unoccupied rooms.  Consider installing a programmable thermostat, which will pay for itself very quickly.  Adjust the heat to a lower setting when you are away from home and while you are sleeping. 

Windows are responsible for 10-25% of household heat loss.  Installing insulated window coverings will help retain heat.  Open curtains on sunny days to let the warmth in and close them at night or on overcast days to keep the cold out.  Check your home for air leaks.  Insulate doors, windows, around electrical outlets, light switches, and your attic access.  Anywhere that cables, wires, or pipes enter your house needs to be sealed with caulk or weather stripping.  Close your fireplace flue and cover the opening tightly when not in use.  Using a humidifier helps because moist air stays warmer than dry air.  If you have ceiling fans, set the blades to run clockwise to push air up and back down around the edges of the room for more even heat distribution. 

I hope this helps you stay warm this winter while keeping your budget in check.

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