Plunging temperatures and howling winds make staying warm not only a challenge, but a priority for area residents.
But in this tough economy, few can ignore the price tag for keeping your home comfortable. It's a costly necessity, but Peoples Gas -- the company to whom you're writing those big checks -- is offering some tips for keeping your gas bill down.
According to the utility's Web site, "Nearly everyone can reduce the amount of natural gas they use by taking a few simple and cost-effective steps."
They suggest the following:
- During the winter months, keep your thermostat between 65-70°. When you go to sleep or leave the house, dial your thermostat down.
- Open your blinds or drapes to let the sun in on sunny winter days. At night, close them to help insulate your windows from the cold.
- Don't heat space you don't use. Close the vents and shut the doors of less-used rooms and open them up when you need them.
- Warm air quickly rises out of your comfort zone, which leaves you down in the cold. Direct your heating registers so that they're blowing horizontally across the floor instead of straight up. If you have ceiling fans, set them in the summer so that you feel a breeze coming down (usually counterclockwise). In the winter, reverse the fan's direction and operate it at a low speed to bring your warm, heated air down where you need it.
- Put lids on pots when you're cooking on the stove. The contents will heat up faster and you'll use less natural gas.
- Fifteen percent of what you're spending on natural gas probably goes to heating water. Take shorter showers and wait for a full load before you run the washing machine or dishwasher. Set your water heater at "warm" rather than "hot," and use a thermometer to make sure that what comes out of the tap is no more than 120 degrees.
- You may not need as much hot water as you think. For example, laundry detergents today can often clean clothes in cold water, so you can run your washing machine at lower temperatures.
WBBM radio talked with Peoples Gas spokeswoman Bonnie Johnson, who said, "Just by turning (the thermostat) down one degree, that can help you save."