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LENOIR — Winter brings with it more pressure on energy costs as heating systems work harder and community members are staying indoors longer, using more lighting and appliances.

All that adds up to higher energy usage. Here are a few ways to help control higher winter energy bills:

• Set the thermostat as low as possible, even lower while you’re away or sleeping. Installing a programmable thermostat makes this an automatic process. Wear extra layers and use extra blankets to comfortable.

• Change air filters on your HVAC system monthly to help your system operate efficiently.

• Have a home’s heat pump serviced according to the manufacturer’s recommendations for maximum operating efficiency.

• Open curtains and blinds on south-facing windows during the daytime to let the sun help naturally heat a home. Be sure to close them at night.

• Wash clothes in cold water when possible, take shorter showers and only run dishwashers and laundry with full loads. Low-flow faucets and shower heads also help.

• If using a space heater, the community members should only heat the room they are in and should not leave it unattended.

• When a fireplace isn’t in use, keep the flue damper tightly closed.

• Seal air leaks so warm air is not lost, or cold air is let in. Do-it-yourself measures include caulking, sealing and weatherstripping seams, cracks and openings to the outside, especially around doors and windows. Foam gaskets can also be installed behind outlet and switch plates on walls.

• Replace older model light bulbs with LED options. Turn off lights that aren’t needed.

• Use power strips to turn off power to devices that constantly use energy even when off such as TVs and game systems.

• Switch ceiling fans to run a clockwise direction to push warm air down.

• Consider emptying and turning off spare refrigerators and chest freezers, which can help since these appliances are always “on” and using electricity.

To see a home’s daily electric usage, sign up for Blue Ridge Energy’s free Usage Tracker for members on the mobile app or online at www.BlueRidgeEnergy.com/UsageTracker. This tool is helping many members understand home usage patterns for ideas on how to be more energy efficient to control costs.

For more ideas, visit Blue Ridge Energy’s website for 101 Easy Ways to Save Energy and Money at www.BlueRidgeEnergy.com/101.

Blue Ridge Energy is a member-owned electric cooperative serving around 77,000 members in Caldwell, Watauga, Ashe, Alleghany, Wilkes, Avery and Alexander counties. To contact the Watauga office, call (828) 264-3521.

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