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Use alternative heat sources to keep the bills lower

A portable heater

Keeping your home warm throughout the winter can be costly, especially if you live in an older house with a dated heating system, or in a part of the country, like the Mid-Atlantic, where every season is unpredictable.

Ideally, you called a contractor and made sure your home heating system was in perfect working order before the cold season really took off and that your home was perfectly insulated so your heat wouldn't escape. However, even these troubleshooting steps don't guarantee that a home heating bill will be cheap during a cold spell.

One method of making sure your family stays warm but your heating bill stays under control is introducing a space heater into the rooms you gather in most.

Close the doors in the rooms that your family won't be using, including the bathrooms, closets and bedrooms when it isn't time to hit the sack. Then, turn the heat in the house down to about 55 degrees since you'll be supplementing the lost heat in other spaces throughout the house.

Don't lower your thermostat below this so that you don't end up causing damage to both your pipes or the plaster on your walls, which both may crack when the temperatures drop below freezing.

Then use a space heater that has been Energy Star-approved to heat the central gathering spaces in the home. The device will have instructions on what setting to put the heater on given the size of the room.

Because you are using an energy-efficient heater and consuming less gas or oil heat, you should notice a drop in your monthly utility costs.