When the weather outside is frightful, your trusty HVAC system makes the winter months bearable. But that comfort comes at a cost, and you could get a case of utility bill sticker shock after an especially cold month.

Keeping your home heating costs to a minimum doesn’t have to be complicated. Some of the most effective energy saving strategies are just simple household chores and good habits. We’ve compiled some of our favorites below -- give them a try and look out for a difference in your next utility bill!

Lower the Thermostat

This one’s a no-brainer, but it belongs at the top of the list because it’s the simplest way to directly lower your home heating costs. According to the Department of Energy, you can save around 10% per year by lowering your thermostat 10 to 15 degrees for eight hours per day. If you do this while you sleep or are away at work, you’ll score savings without compromising comfort. Every degree counts. Check out our Thermostat Guide for more advice on your thermostat settings.

Get Smart

Hand-in-hand with lowering your thermostat is getting technology that makes it easier to do that. We recommend upgrading to a programmable thermostat, or even better, a smart thermostat. Smart thermostats can be controlled from anywhere with a user-friendly smartphone app. Customize a heating schedule around your routine to start saving energy without being tied to your thermostat.

Clean Your Air Vents

You can heat your home most effectively when there’s an unobstructed flow of air coming from your returns and vents. So, to make sure nothing gets in your way, clean these vents routinely to remove dust and other debris. You should also make sure that none of your vents are blocked by furniture or other objects.

Dress for Success

Whether you put your sweater collection to good use or prefer to lounge around the house in your warmest PJs, staying comfortable in a cooler home is a simple matter of dressing for the occasion. When you get the urge to dial the thermostat up a degree, throw on another layer instead.

Your Biggest Fan

Ceiling fans aren’t just for summertime. Flip the directional switch so that your fan blades turn clockwise and run the fans on low speed in occupied rooms. This will create an updraft that will gently circulate the warmest air, which lingers near the ceiling. Just don’t forget to turn the fans off when the last person leaves the room!

Free Heat

The sun gives away heat for free, even in the winter. So when it’s shining on your home, open the curtains and blinds on sun-facing windows to let those warming rays right into the room. Remember to close them again after sundown, though, to preserve that extra layer of insulation. Check out some other simple things you can do in your home to keep it warmer for free.

Get Your Annual Checkup

Whether you have a furnace, boiler, heat pump, or geothermal heater, it should be tuned up every year, ideally before the heating season starts. If you’re overdue for this essential maintenance, schedule your tune-up without delay. A thorough tune-up includes several checks and adjustments that can make your heating system run more efficiently, and often makes it possible to catch and repair small problems before they can turn into expensive ordeals.

Wintertime doesn’t have to be uncomfortable or expensive. But if these simple hacks aren’t giving you the results you really want, contact your local One Hour Heating & Air Conditioning for a free consultation about other options.