At this point during the winter season do you find yourself sitting in your home, cringing every time the furnace kicks in? Heating your home during the winter months can be expensive, and according to the Ontario Ministry of Energy, "[h]eating and cooling accounts for about 60 percent of an average home's energy costs."

The good news is that, in addition to the fact that winter will eventually turn into spring, there are a number of creative ways to save money on your heating bill. Best of all, none of the solutions (at least not the ones listed below!) will require you to wear a parka indoors or a toque to bed at night.

Here are a few inexpensive ways to keep your home warm and your bills down during the winter months:

Programmable thermostat
Make sure your programmable thermostat has a built-in timer, so that you can set your temperature lower when you are away from the house and at night. However, don't drop the temperature too much overnight, otherwise all of the items in your home will get cold and your furnace will spend half of the next day trying to warm everything up again.

Ceiling fans
Adjusting your ceiling fans so that they are going in the right direction (clockwise in the winter, counter-clockwise in the summer) will help make sure that all the warm air that is trapped at the ceiling level will get gently pushed back down to where you can enjoy it. Just make sure you keep it on low speed. Otherwise, if it's running on top speed, the air will get cold. Let's face it, the last thing you want is for cold air to be blowing on you in the winter. You get enough of that with the outdoor elements.

Weather stripping and caulking
Determining where the warm air is escaping is easy to do in the winter. Simply place your hand around doorways and windows and you'll feel where the cool air is streaming in. Making sure these cracks are sealed will dramatically reduce the amount of warm air that is leaving your home instead of keeping you warm.

Hot water heater
Servicing your hot water heater regularly will ensure that it is functioning at the most efficient level. You can also insulate the heater with a water heater blanket. Most newer tanks are already insulated, but this is a great idea for older tanks.

Layer up
In addition to all the other suggestions, throw on an extra blanket and put on those slippers that hide in the closet the rest of the year. Use winter as an excuse to get cozy with a hot cup of anything you like.

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