As the leaves change from green to gold and the temperature gets cooler, Vermonters will prepare to heat their homes for the fall and winter seasons. Most will spend more this year than ever before to stay warm. Efficiency Vermont offers the following 10 tips as a means of lowering those costs while keeping Vermont homes safe and warm. 1. Make Your Home More Efficient. Efficiency Vermont-approved Home Performance with ENERGY STAR contractors can perform an energy audit on your home and install the recommended improvements, such as air sealing and insulation. Find a contractor and learn about financing options at www.efficiencyvermont.com/homeperformance. Low-income Vermonters can get similar services for free - learn more at www.helpforvt.org. 2. Lower the Thermostat. Each degree a thermostat is turned down (around the clock) in the winter equates to a cost savings of roughly three percent on your energy bill. Turning a thermostat back from 72 to 65 for eight hours a day can save as much as 10 percent on annual heating and cooling costs. Try lowering the thermostat when nobody is home, or just before going to bed. Programmable thermostats can help to manage your homes temperature by consistently changing the setting whenever you wanteven if you are asleep or at work. 3. Plug Up Air Leaks. Focus on plugging air leaks in the attic, where warm air escapes, and in the basement, where cold air enters the home. If youre handy, use expanding foam to seal larger holes and caulk to seal small gaps. You can also save more by adding insulation in the attic. Theres more information on air sealing and insulating at www.efficiencyvermont.com/homeheating. Or find a professional to help at www.efficiencyvermont.com/homeperformance. 4. Heat Only Space You Use. Close off unneeded rooms, but ensure water pipes have adequate insulation or heat and don't freeze. 5. Let the Sun Shine In. Open the window shades on the south and west side of the house during the day to maximize the warmth of the sun, and close them at night. 6. Fix Drafty Windows and Doors. Caulk around window frames and use weather stripping and door sweeps on doors. Properly adjusted window-sash locks will ensure that windows are properly shut. Use storm windows and put up interior window plastic, available in kits at hardware stores. 7. Clean Up. Keep the area near registers, radiators, air returns and baseboards clear and dust-free. Vacuum or dust radiators and baseboards often and be sure theyre not blocked by furniture and carpets. Heat needs to circulate to reach all areas of the house, especially with a forced-air system. 8. Close Dampers When You're Not Using The Fireplace. An open fireplace damper pulls warm air (air youve paid to heat) from the house, even when there is no fire. And, if possible, avoid or reduce the use of traditional masonry fireplaces, which tend to be much less efficient than other heating devices. 9. Tune Up Your Equipment. If your heating or hot water equipment has not been serviced recently, make sure it is cleaned and adjusted to operate as efficiently and safely as possible. 10. Save Electricity. Replace your standard incandescent light bulbs with ENERGY STAR compact fluorescent bulbs. For information about which bulbs work best where and how much you can save, visit http://www.newbulbintown.com/. When purchasing new appliances, be sure to select models with the ENERGY STAR. Small appliances and home office equipment use power even when they're off. Plug TVs, VCRs, fax machines, computers, printers, etc. into a power strip and just turn them off.