Saving on utility costs for fall and winter

There's a chill in the air, but that's no reason to feel the heat in your utility costs. Here are a few tips on how to keep your utility expenses under control during these winter and fall months:

DO AN AUDIT: Consider having an energy audit done to find out where you have energy inefficiencies and how to improve your energy savings. You can pay a professional for these checkups, but some local programs or utility companies may provide one for free.

The Department of Energy also has tips on do-it-yourself home energy audits at .

WEATHERIZE: Seal leaks around the house. This could include caulking or weather-stripping around leaky doors and windows or gaps around chimneys or recessed lights.

The Energy Trust of Oregon says weatherization is one of the easiest ways to increase comfort, conserve energy and save money.

Fixes could be as small as covering drafty windows with insulating drapes, shades or even heavy-duty plastic. Or you may want to replace older windows with newer, more energy efficient ones.

There are often local programs to help pay for energy upgrades to your home - check with your local utility companies for information.

TAKE CONTROL OF THE THERMOSTAT: Set your thermostat as low as is comfortable when you are home and turn it down when you are asleep or out of the house. The Department of Energy estimates that lowering your thermostat by 10 to 15 degrees during these periods will save about 10 percent a year on your heating bills.

Better yet — get a programmable thermostat that automatically makes this adjustment on schedule.

HELP THE HEAT: Service your furnace and change the air filter regularly, once a month or so, to keep it in optimal running order. If you have a wood or pellet-burning heater, clean the flue to ensure your home is heated efficiently. And keep your fireplace damper closed unless a fire is burning. Leaving it open is like keeping a window wide open in the winter, according to the Department of Energy.

SEE THE LIGHT: Update your lightbulbs to energy efficient light-emitting-diode, known as LED, lights. Some energy audits may offer you these for free as part of the evaluation. Residential LEDs use at least 75 percent less energy and last 25 times longer than traditional incandescent lighting. And consider using LED holiday lights to lower the cost for decorating your home.