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Officials offer tips to keep utility bills low

By By Thomas Tingle
Record Managing Editor
The cold temperatures we experienced this past weekend could result in many Huntsville Utilities and North Alabama Gas District customers seeing a higher power and gas bill for the month of December.
However, utility officials say that doesn't have to happen. Bill Yell, public relations director for Huntsville Utilities said just because it's cold outside doesn't mean the cold temperatures has to take a bite out of your pocketbook.
Yell said there are several winter energy tips to take not of that will help keep your utility bill in check and even reduce it.
"In very cold weather, zone heating can keep your bill low but should not be used on a consistent basis due to possible mold problems," Yell said. "Close the doors and vents to the rooms that you are not frequently using and heat only the most important rooms in the house. You can do this if you have gas heat or an electric furnace, but do not try with a heat pump or an air conditioner. It may cause damage to the compressor. Also, try not to zone off the area in which the thermostat is located."
Here are some other energy tips offered by Huntsville Utilities.
* Open and close your curtains. Open your curtains on the south side of your house during the day. The sun sinks approximately 30 degrees to the south in the winter and will provide a significant heating effect during the day. Close all other curtains during the day and night to prevent a heat loss.
* Seal your windows: Check the outside edges of your windows for air gaps. If cracks exist, re-caulking is one of the most effective measures that you can take. Storm windows are very cost effective if applied over single pane windows, especially if a vinyl gasket is used. Clear plastic can be applied to the interior of the windows to seal against air infiltration for very little expense.
* Seal your doors. The best way to seal a door is with weather-stripping and a threshold. A towel at the bottom of the door will suffice as a temporary measure.
* Wrap the water heater. Most electric water heaters cost substantially more than natural gas to operate. Jackets are available for the sides and top. They will usually pay for themselves in only a few years.
* Wrap hot water pipes.
* Check the insulation in the attic. Make sure the insulation is at least six inches deep or an R-value of 19. If you need additional insulation, bring the level up to an R-value of 30.
* Keep the thermostat set at a specific temperature.

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