Kara McGuire writes about all things related to personal finance. Follow our coupon clipping, retirement saving, bargain hunting, budget mama as she saves, spends and searches for ways to keep more money in her wallet – and yours.

Slash heating bills with smart fixes

Posted by: Kara McGuire under Family finance, Household budgeting, Energy Updated: January 12, 2011 - 2:42 PM

CenterPoint Energy is using a new tiered pricing structure that rewards people who are conserving with a lower price per unit of natural gas. My Sunday story, which is now out from behind the paywall, has a lot of readers burning up. Many are worried that their bills will skyrocket because their house is drafty or because they have health problems that require warmer room temperatures. Others dislike the policy because they dislike the social engineering elements. Keep your hands off my furnace, they say, especially with natural gas prices low and new technology making it easier to extract.

The program is a three-year pilot, and the Public Utilities Commission will still record public comments that come in for all to see. You can file your own comments to be added to the public docket. That's actually how I found Linda, the unemployed woman I featured in the story.

So how can you reduce your heating bills, whether you are subject to this new pricing, or receive your natural gas from another company?

The coolest site I found, with just loads of energy saving tips bundled in user friendly categories like "Free and Easy," or "Biggest Bang for your Buck," is the Minnesota Energy Challenge site, run by the Center for Energy and the Environment.

But energy tips abound. Shortly after my story ran, CenterPoint Energy spokeswoman Becca Virden sent me a photo of some heavy drapes in her house. She says she sews many of them herself to save money and using this tip and many others, she managed to keep her natural gas use to 73 therms on her last bill.

Most gas companies have helpful tips on their website for reducing heating costs.

For example, CenterPoint has a diagram that takes you through the different rooms in the home, making suggestions such as replacing furnace filters, turning down the thermostat when you're not home and placing foil between the wall and radiator to reflect heat. The company also has how-to videos for various do-it-yourself improvements.

Xcel energy has its own tips, plus a free assessment tool for customers to evaluate their own energy use.

Both companies, and a host of nonprofits, offer free or affordable home energy audits.

How do you save on your home heating bills?

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