Winter is nearing the end: But the air is brisk, and the wind is still picking up off the lakes. Don’t put away the heavy coats just yet. The crew neck sweatshirts, fuzzy blankets, and waterproof, lined boots are still in need as we’re only halfway through March.

So, let’s think about your winter utility bill. Heating an apartment in Chicago or a home in Lake View is an expensive necessity during long, cold Illinois winters. But there are things you can do to keep your utility bill reasonable, without shivering. Here are five tips to lower your winter utility bill:

  1. Set Your Thermostat at 68
    The first time the low is 20 degrees, it will be tempting to crank the thermostat up into the 80s. But doing so is expensive. Most experts agree that 68 degrees Fahrenheit is an ideal indoor temperature in winter: warm enough for comfort, but not so hot that your heater will be working overtime. If you get a little chilly, add layers of clothing, or wrap yourself in a soft, warm robe or blanket. Wool socks, house slippers, and fuzzy sweaters aren’t just warm — they’ll save you money.

    Additionally, lower your thermostat when you sleep. You’ll be warm in bed, anyway. And it goes without saying — if you’ll be out of town for a significant amount of time, lower the heat to 50 degrees or so. That way, the pipes won’t freeze, but you won’t be heating empty rooms, either.


     
  2. Use Heavy Drapes… and the Sun
    In winter, heavy drapes and curtains do an excellent job of minimizing drafts and heat loss through windows. Closing them at night can make your heater’s job easier.

    But don’t keep them drawn all day. Instead, use the natural heating power of the sun: If you have south-facing windows, open the curtains during the day to allow light and heat to warm your rooms.


     
  3. Replace Your Filter
    Your HVAC system heats your home most efficiently when it’s clean. When’s the last time you changed yours? If it’s been more than six months — especially if you have pets — you should take a look. A clogged or dirty filter not only is less efficient for heating and cooling your home, it can also push dirt, dander, and dust back into your rooms. Replacing it can lower heating costs and improve air quality.


     
  4. Wrap Those Windows Up
    Glass is a terrific heat conductor. That’s why it makes sense to use plastic insulators on all of your windows. Window film is cheap, easy to apply, and can help prevent heat loss. Plus, it’s easy to remove when spring rolls around.


     
  5. Lower Your Water Temperature
    How often do you really need 150-degree water? Not often. But since your water heater is most likely located in a chilly basement, the energy needed to heat the water to that temperature is higher during the winter. Lowering your hot water temperature to 120 or so can help shave a few dollars off your bill every month.