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Master your thermostat: Tips for smarter, more efficient living this autumn and winter

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The thermostat in your home may be the bane of your existence. It's hard not to hold a grudge against it, after all. Sure, it helps you stay comfortable, but this little box on the wall is also responsible for your most expensive utility bills!

Thermostat management doesn't have to be a nightmare of constant adjustment, concession and second-guessing. Follow these tips and you can set your worries behind you and live a more efficient autumn and winter.

Know your thermostat
Too much energy is wasted by folks who simply don't know what they're doing with their thermostat. For instance, did you know that turning your thermostat down just 10 or 15 degrees for eight hours during the day can save you between 5 and 15 percent annually on your heating bills?

Consider other heating options
Sometimes you can do without running the furnace – especially in the autumn when you may not need to warm a whole home. When you're just keeping one or two rooms warm, electric space heaters can be a much more efficient choice. Once the furnace is on for the season, you can turn down the thermostat and cozy up with a ceramic space heater instead.

Never turn it too low
As a rule of thumb – even when you're leaving for a long weekend or on a winter vacation – don't turn your thermostat below 55, noted Care2.com. You want to keep just enough heat in the home to prevent pipes from freezing.

Debunk the myths
It's sometimes said that when you lower the thermostat, you're just making your furnace work harder, and consume extra energy when you inevitably turn up the heat later on. The U.S. Department of Energy debunked this myth. The fact of the matter is, as the house's temperature drops, it actually starts losing heat more slowly. So, the longer your house is at a lower temperature rather than a higher one, the less heat is sapped out and the more energy you save! Want to save even more power? Give yourself a home energy audit and weatherproof your windows, doors and insulation for winter.

Program your thermostat
If you've got a programmable model, understand and adjust your heating on a pre-set schedule. This may require some adjustment as you move from late summer to fall and from fall to winter, but having the preset program gives you greater control over your heat. The DOE has a useful schedule for families with adults and children that spend most of the day out of the house for work and school. From 6:45 a.m. to 10:30 p.m., it charts four pre-programmable points when the temperature can be lowered or raised for maximum efficiency. Even if your thermostat isn't programmable, you can create a schedule for yourself and stick to it. This can help you keep your utility bills regular.

Party plan with your thermostat
According to Care2.com, when you're hosting a party, you'll want to turn your thermostat way down. Think of it this way: According to the news source, each guest is the equivalent of a 175-watt heater, so enough people can warm up a space really quickly. Need some extra coziness? Just turn on your space heater as a supplement. 


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