Halloween candy is on clearance, pumpkin spice fever is everywhere, and Christmas decorations will soon be taking over your favorite stores. The shorter days and colder nights mean that many people are about to start firing up their furnaces and fireplaces for the first time in months. Dropping temperatures and lower utility bills never go hand in hand, so making sure you have an energy-efficient house is crucial when you need to reduce heating costs.

Control Your Weather

Let’s get the obvious out of the way: the lower you set the temperature on your thermostat, the less work your HVAC system will have to do to heat your home. 68 degrees is a good starting point—it may feel a bit nippy, but putting on an extra layer of clothing while hanging around the house can help keep both you and your wallet more comfortable in the winter months. When you’re away at work or sleeping, there’s no reason to keep the place toasty for the dust mites. Learning thermostats such as those made by Nest Labs can be set to automatically raise or lower the temperature at specific times of day, eliminating the need to remember to readjust your thermostat daily.

Mind the Gap

Man applying caulk to a window frame

Check your weather stripping and door alignment to make sure that gaps aren’t letting heat out. Make sure that outlets, electrical boxes, and holes where pipes enter the home are properly sealed and insulated. A quarter of heat loss in homes occurs through windows. An inexpensive, easy-to-apply film can significantly reduce heat loss through your windows. When applied correctly, the film is barely noticeable, and it is easy to remove when spring rolls around.

Prepare for “Flue” Season

An open chimney flue gives heat a direct route out of your home. If you don’t use your chimney, prevent heat loss by making sure the damper is closed. Dampers don’t completely prevent heat loss, so for additional insulation, consider getting an inflatable chimney balloon to create an extra barrier against heat loss. These balloons are a great investment, as they can pay for themselves in energy savings within a year.

Think Big, Heat Small

Heating large spaces can get expensive quickly. For more energy-efficient heating, use portable heaters in the areas of your home where you spend the most time, as opposed to heating every single room on every floor of your house. You’ll be able lower the temperature while freaking out over the latest cliffhanger on The Walking Dead in comfort. In the interest of safety, shy away from using heaters with exposed heating elements. Also, use caution when using heaters in your bathroom, even those that are designated as bathroom-safe—electrocution is a concern and should be taken seriously.

Don’t Boil Over

The majority of hot water heaters come from the factory set to 140 degrees—hot enough to scald—but most homeowners would be fine with setting their water heater to 120 degrees. In addition to preventing injury, it also lowers annual water heating costs by around 10 percent. One caveat: some dishwashers need 140-degree water, so be sure to check the guidelines for your unit before adjusting the water temperature.

Try a New Spin

Ceiling fan casting a shadow on the ceiling

One of the simplest ways to keep your home warmer is by using the principles of heat transfer to your advantage. Heat rises, so set your ceiling fans to run clockwise at a slow speed, and they will force the warm air down from near the ceiling without creating a windchill effect.

Unfortunately, heat might as well be Houdini—it always finds a way to escape. Heat loss reduction is crucial to lowering your heating costs, which can skyrocket in the winter—even modest reductions can have a significant impact on your bottom line. Follow these tips, and you’ll be well on your way to lower heating bills.

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