Heating costs have skyrocketed in New England this year. Between soaring energy costs and record fuel pricing, households across the region are feeling the pressure on their budgets. To lessen the impact of these increases, here are 6 tips to consider to keep costs down this winter.

Guard against air leaks

Cold air can easily slip into your home through cracks and gaps. To guard against this, weatherstrip your doors and windows to block out energy-sucking drafts, or consider using insulation film on your windows. Look for other places that may be contributing to cold air leaking in; make sure you close your fireplace damper when not in use and utilize a fireplace draft stopper. Outlets can also be a surprising source of drafts; you can easily remedy this problem using plastic outlet covers.

Check on your furnace

When caring for your furnace this winter, try to check or change your filters at least once a month— dirty filters cause your furnace to work overtime and can lead to higher bills. If it’s time to replace the whole furnace, look into a high-efficiency model and possible tax incentives for your purchase. Investing now can provide a high payoff in the future.

Contact your utility suppliers

Reach out to your utility companies to discuss what programs they offer that may help you manage the rising costs. Ask your heating fuel provider about automatic delivery, or locking in heating fuel pricing. Some utility companies also offer budget billing, which allows you to pay a set amount each month based on your average usage, this may make fluctuations in seasonal usage more manageable for your budget.

Have an energy audit done on your home

Schedule an energy audit to find out how you can improve the efficiency of your home. A home energy audit, or home energy assessment, can determine how much energy you are using and whether there are energy-saving opportunities you can implement. A professional audit will include a room-by-room and a whole-house analysis to detect any problems or inefficiencies. In addition to possible money-saving solutions, an energy audit can also identify safety concerns like electrical or ventilation issues.

Lower the thermostat, but don’t go too low

Lowering your thermostat even a little can affect your bill. Consider lowering your thermostat when you’re out of the house or when you’re sleeping, but don’t go too low! To avoid the expense of an unexpected plumbing emergency, such as having your pipes freeze this winter, keep your heat at 55 degrees or higher.

See if you’re eligible for additional assistance

Even after taking the above steps, many families may still find the heating and energy cost unmanageable this year. Many states have programs set up to help alleviate this burden. In Maine, the Home Energy Assistance Program (HEAP) helps qualified homeowners and renters pay for heating costs. The amount of assistance you may get from HEAP is based on your household size and income, energy costs, and other factors; benefits are typically paid to your fuel provider as a credit to your account. Maine Housing also has a Weatherization Assistance Program which provides grants to income-eligible homeowners and renters to reduce energy costs by improving home energy efficiency. To learn more about eligibility and additional programs, visit their website here.

Staying warm this winter can be made easier by following the above steps, but if you’re looking for even more money-saving tips, visit our Financial Smarts blog.