Old Man Winter is on his way again, bringing with him cooler temperatures and high energy bills. This year, reduce your energy use and save money on your gas and electric bills by following these simple tips.

There are a few key things that can be done to save money in the winter. One of the most important is keeping heat inside your home. You’re paying for it, so don’t let the outdoors enjoy what seeps through the cracks! One major area that heat can escape from is windows. If you have old windows and some extra money, consider replacing them completely. There are a variety of energy-efficient windows on the market today that can drastically lower your heat bill. Plus, for a limited time, the government is offering a tax incentive for repairs that improve energy efficiency in your home. Take advantage of this while you still can!

If you can’t afford new windows, all is not lost. Hit your local hardware store and pick up some outdoor caulk. Walk around your house and place a bead of caulk around every window. This will seal cracks and keep heat in.

You may also consider purchasing plastic sheeting to cover your windows. This sheeting looks like plastic food wrap, and is actually fun to apply. It comes with double-sided sticky tape. Simply place a strip of tape around the window on the interior (the best place is on the molding), and stick the plastic to it, making sure the entire window is covered. Use a hair dryer to shrink the plastic, which will eliminate the ripples. When done correctly, this creates a perfectly transparent “window” over your existing window that helps keep heat in. Trim the excess plastic around the edges for a cleaner look. You can find this product at most hardware, home improvement, and mass merchandise stores at a minimal cost.

Another easy trick, that also has the advantage of being FREE, is to keep blinds and curtains closed whenever possible. This creates a barrier that helps keep heat in, and cold out. You can’t beat a free solution.

Another major money saver is turning your thermostat down. For every one degree you dial down, you can save 1-3% on your energy bill. Keep the temperature as low as you can without sacrificing comfort. Layer up if you feel chilled occasionally. If you plan on being away from the house for a few hours during the day (such as while you are at work), turn the temperature down while you are gone and won’t notice the decrease. A programmable thermostat makes this task simple, by allowing you to set the times that the temperature decreases and increases. Keep in mind that this is not a good solution for homes with babies, elderly, or sick people.

If you have ceiling fans in your home, they can be used to maximize heat distribution. Most newer models come with a switch to alternate between normal and a winter setting. During the warmer months, ceiling fans blow cool air downwards around the room. When flipped to the winter setting, they draw cool air upwards in the center, which pushes the warmer air found near the ceiling down the walls, without giving you a chill.

A few other tips that can be used year-round include turning appliances and lights off in rooms that are not occupied, turning the temperature setting on your water heater down a few degrees (which rarely affects water temperature), closing heat/air vents in unused rooms, using cold water instead of warm whenever possible, and buying energy-efficient light bulbs for your home. For more tips, look on your energy supplier’s website – many offer free brochures on ways to save money.

In closing, it is better to have a quality heating oil with convenient delivery options for your New Jersey home as that will save you the time and trouble of going out and purchasing it yourself.