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(ARA) - As winter approaches and the outdoor temperature drops, energy consumption is on the rise. Homeowners can implement these five tips to help reduce their home's energy use and costs, yet maintain a warm and comfortable indoor environment, this winter.

Energy audit
If you want to reduce your home's energy costs, a home energy assessment or audit is a good place to start. While many homeowners can observe obvious air leaks on their own, a professional energy auditor will go into greater detail, checking a home's exterior and interior room-by-room, for undetectable energy wasters. A professional will also review your recent utility bills before recommending ways to decrease household energy consumption. Many electric or gas companies provide professional energy assessments or can recommend a local auditor.

During the winter, people tend to use more artificial lighting to make up for the decrease in daylight. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, switching from incandescent light bulbs to more efficient compact florescent bulbs (CFLs) or light emitting diodes (LEDs) can save up to $50 a year in energy costs. Another easy way to reduce energy consumption during the winter holiday season is to use a timer on your festive decorative lights. Your local home improvement stores should carry a variety of inexpensive timer models to choose from.

Water heating
Lowering the thermostat on your water heater by 10 degrees can help save between 3 and 5 percent in energy costs. In addition, keeping your water heater set at 120 degrees will slow corrosion in your water heater and pipes, allowing them to operate at their most efficient. Insulate your water heater tank and any accessible hot water pipes using pre-cut insulation pieces available at most home improvement stores. The pre-cut pieces are easy to install and may prevent your pipes from freezing in the winter.

Indoor heating
It's tempting to turn up the heat when the weather cools; however, during the winter months, you can save as much as 3 percent of heating costs for every degree your thermostat is lowered. A professional heating and cooling contractor can recommend and install a programmable thermostat like the AccuLink(TM) Platinum ZV Control from American Standard Heating & Air Conditioning that allows homeowners to create heating schedules for when no one is home ensuring greater energy efficiency and enhanced indoor comfort. Learn more at www.americanstandardair.com.

Adding more insulation where you already have some, in your home's attic, for example, will help to save energy. However greater energy savings are often found when installing insulation into places that are not currently insulated. A home energy auditor can help identify how much insulation you currently have and how much you need, in addition to which type of installation to install.

During the winter, energy costs can make a big dent in the family budget; however, there are a few easy things you can do to lower your home's energy consumption. Find comfort and joy in your home this season by reducing energy costs and efficiently heating your home.Five tips to stay warm and reduce energy costs
Category: Business