heating_billHEATING COSTS ARE SKYROCKETING. Even though we are having a mild winter so far in Atlanta, households will shell out an average whopping $986. What’s more, prices could spike as high as $200 in February because of the possibility of late winter chilly temperatures. Here are a few quick tips from Snellville Heating and Air in Gwinnett, Walton, Newton, Rockdale, DeKalb, or Fulton County Georgia to help you stay toasty and save money while you’re at it.

LEVEL THE PLAYING FIELD, You may find relief in an unlikely source–your energy provider. Level payment plans, such as the one Walton EMC, allow customers to pay a set amount each month based on factors such as a household’s past energy use and weather projections. Check with your local energy provider for details.

TURN ON YOUR CEILING FAN. Reverse the motor so that your ceiling fan operates in a clockwise direction, at the lowest speed setting. Because heat rises, you have the option to reverse the air setting to push that warm air down in the winter according to a spokesperson, from Energy Star, a joint program between the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Department of Energy. Using your ceiling fan can shave $10 off your heating bill.

KEEP WARM AIR IN. You can save up to 20% on heating costs by sealing and insulating your home. Seal in heat by weather stripping and caulking around all windows and doors, cracks, and places where pipes, electrical wires, and ducts enter the home. Weather stripping creates a tight seal between the moving parts of doors and windows, whereas caulking seals gaps around nonmoving parts of doors and windows and other small openings where air can escape. You can buy weather stripping and caulking materials for less than $10 at home improvement stores such as Home Depot.

CHANGE YOUR FURNACE FILTER. Don’t forget to have your furnace inspected and tuned-up each fall, and replace your filter regularly during the winter. Preventative measures go a long way toward saving money on heating costs. Most filters cost less than $25 and can be purchased at stores such as Lowe’s (www.lowes.com), which has an online guide to choosing the right filter. Lowering your thermostat is also wise. Each degree you dial down can save you 1% to 3% on your heating bill.

INSTALL GLASS DOORS IN FRONT OF YOUR FIREPLACE. Glass doors lock in much-needed heat and can be purchased at home improvement stores for about $250. In addition, keeping the chimney damper closed when the fireplace is not in use keeps heated air from escaping. The total size of the gaps that allow air to escape in most homes equals that of an open window.

Resources to Get You Through the Winter

* Alliance to Save Energy (www.ase.org) offers a newsletter with helpful tips and news.

* American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy (www.aceee.org) has a free consumer’s guide to home energy savings.

* Energy Star (www.energystar.gov) tells you how to get rebates on energy-efficient heating equipment.