Heat-Home-WinterMost people have a pretty good idea of how to keep their homes warm during the winter months: they just crank up the thermostat and accept the fact that their children's’ college fund will be going towards paying the gargantuan energy bill. However, there are ways that you can still keep your house toasty warm without having to pay through the nose for it. Here are three tips to help you get through the season with your temperature and your bank account both at optimum levels.

1. Make sure that your heat stays where it should

On average, a home loses about 20 percent of it’s heat to the outside due to bad insolation. This means that the warmth that you pay for could be escaping your house through windows, doors, ceilings, walls, and any other place through which air can flow. The trick to sealing up these holes in your cold-defense is in knowing where they are. With a portable infrared sensor, you can scan your home for invisible leaks, and then plug them up with gap filler, weather strips, or even thicker-paned windows. Also, make sure that you’re not paying to heat empty rooms. If there are areas of your house that often go unused, be sure to shut the doors and close off any vents that lead into those areas.

2. Take advantage of alternate heat sources

The furnace isn’t the only way to heat up a home. Although many people have begun to shy away from them due to environmental concerns, a nice big fireplace or wood-burning stove can actually save you a bundle on your heating bill. For more ecologically friendly alternatives, consider taking advantage of the natural heat and light provided by the sun. You may not be able to reorient the direction that your home faces, but if you’re willing to trim back some trees or remove some other obstructions, you should be able to maximize the amount of direct sunlight that hits your home. Mirrors can also be used to help reflect sunlight into different areas of the home, bringing with it free heat that’s also eco-friendly. Or, if you regularly use the kitchen, baking in an oven or cooking on a stovetop can generate excess heat that will spill over into the rest of your home.

3. Use home automation

Most modern homes rely on conventional thermostats, lighting, and energy to make it through the winter. The problem with these methods is that they aren’t very efficient. However, with the addition of some special smart home technology, you can let your furnace do all the hard work without it costing you an arm and a leg. For starters, a well designed smart home will feature a smart thermostats that can actually become familiar with your routines and preferences. So, instead of just making sure that the home stays a comfortable 70 F all of the time, your thermostat will be able to reduce the temperature while you’re away at work, increase it when you come home, reduce it again while you’re asleep under the comforter, increase it again just a little bit before your alarm goes off, and so on. This can drastically cut back on the amount of wasted energy and save you some serious cash in the process. Of course, if you don’t want to pay an electric bill at all, you can always elect to install special solar panels on your smart home. This will allow you to generate your own inexpensive power, thus cutting the electric company completely out of the loop. And don’t worry about the panels not working in the cold; as long as you keep snow from building up on them for too long and blocking the sunlight, your solar panels will actually work more efficiently in the cold (electricity is funny that way).

So don’t fall into the furnace-trap this season. Make sure to get the most out of your heat, and save your money for something more important.