Reducing your energy bill means finding ways to use less.

And while there are a number of big-ticket ways to cut costs — such as replacing windows — state and private energy experts say there is plenty of money to be saved on the cheap.

Efficiency Maine has a number of recommendations on its website,, including simply turning down your thermostat to 55 degrees when the house is unoccupied and 60 degrees at night while you are sleeping.

“It is a common myth that it takes more energy to re-heat a home that has been set to a lower temperature than it does to keep the heat at a constant level,” the website says. “The more you turn down the heat when you don’t need it, the more you will save.”

There are also savings in simply opening your home’s shades, drapes and blinds to let the light in during the day and closing them to trap heat in at night or when the sky is overcast.

Efficiency Maine also offers these low- and moderate-cost alternatives:

* Seal any leaks in your heating or cooling system ducts, which can save as much as 20 percent in heating and cooling costs.

* Caulk and weather-strip to seal air leaks around windows, doors, pipes and ducts to reduce drafts. Seal off electrical receptacles and switch boxes with foam gaskets.

* Use window-insulator kits to cover windows with clear plastic sheets to stop drafts.

* Insulate hot water pipes that provide heat to the rooms in your home. This will reduce heat loss in un-insulated areas and will help your heating system work more efficiently.

* Clean and service your boiler or furnace annually. Hire a qualified technician. Cleaning substantially extends the life of your heating system while ensuring that it’s operating safely.

* Insulate attic access and basement bulkhead doors as well as ceilings, walls, floors and heating ducts.

There are other, more pricey recommendations as well.

J&S Oil President John Babb suggests buying an on-demand water heating system, which can cost a few thousand dollars installed, to eliminate heating water when it is not in use.

Or add a zone to your heating system that controls your primary living space. A direct-heating system, like a monitor or pellet stove, to heat the primary living area also will save money, Babb said, because you are not heating rooms that are not in use. Such systems typically cost $2,000 to $3,000.

Babb said there may be savings in a new, more efficient boiler, but he suggested there are greater savings to be had by adding insulation.

State agencies such as Efficiency Maine and many banks and credit unions offer low-interest loans to improve energy efficiency.

“They know it’s a good investment,” Babb said.

Rob Gordon, executive director of the United Way of Kennebec Valley, said some families are trying to save money by shutting down rooms in their house or even winterizing their whole home and moving in with a family member.

“I spoke to someone the other day who said this might be the winter they can convince their mother to move in,” Gordon said. “In extended family networks, there are some natural connections.”

Craig Crosby — 621-5642

[email protected]

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