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Home decor tips to take the bite out of winter energy bills

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Updated: 12/12/2012 12:06 pm

For many of us, cooler weather means higher utility bills. As the temperatures drop, it takes more energy and money to power our homes. Research conducted by EnergyStar.gov found that lighting accounts for 12 percent and heating nearly 30 percent of energy usage in an average American home.

While you may be aware of measures that can reduce energy bills - like adding insulation to your attic, programmable thermostats, or energy efficient appliances - did you know that your home decor can also help boost your home's energy efficiency? Here are a few simple home decor tips that can help trim your utility bills this winter:

Work those windows 

Windows add beauty to a home, but they are also a major contributor to energy waste. Experts estimate that 10 to 25 percent of residential heating costs are due to unprotected or ill-fitting windows. Proper weather stripping of windows is essential. Installing double-paned Energy Star windows with a low-e coating is an excellent way to preserve heat and energy. The gas center of the dual panes adds protection from the cold, while the low-e coating reflects heat back into the home.

Additionally, the window treatments you choose can greatly enhance your home's energy efficiency, limiting expensive dependence on heating and air conditioning. Online retailer Blindsgalore.com carries a large variety of energy-efficient window treatments, including cellular shades, wood blinds, faux wood blinds and solar screens. The honeycomb design of cellular shades traps an insulating layer of air within the pockets of the shade. Wood and faux-wood blinds add elegant style to a home, while also blocking drafts and trapping heat inside. Solar screens are interior window treatments that diminish energy transfer and heat loss through windows, while still admitting light and allowing line of sight. 

Window tinting is another emerging energy conservation technique. During the warmer months the tinting eliminates 60 percent of solar heat from entering the home, while also blocking 99 percent of the harmful ultraviolet rays that fade furniture and carpet. The nearly transparent film helps reduce glare on televisions and computer screens, but most importantly, can reduce cooling costs by 30 percent. During the winter, the tinting material works as another layer of window insulation. 

Kick it up with color

Color affects mood in home decor, but did you know it also changes a room's energy efficiency? It is more than a psychological effect; painting in darker warm colors, especially the exterior of a house, increases the temperature. Dark colors absorb more light, pulling heat into the home.  

Another opportunity for a pop of color can be found in flooring. Dark-colored wood floors (for example, espresso) are much more energy efficient than tiled floors. Tile is a highly effective heat conductor that pulls warmth away from your feet, making it feel much colder than wood, which pushes the heat back toward your feet.

Choosing darker blinds and flooring can increase absorption and retention of warmth from the day, helping lower your heating bills throughout the winter.

Insider insulation

Quality of insulation is the keystone of energy-efficiency. Adding chic fabrics to the walls is a great way to insulate a room, making it feel warmer and quieter. Heavy fabric drapes help block drafts and keep heat in your home. Increase the insulation in your room by covering large areas of bare floor with thick area rugs. Attractive throw blankets and decorative pillows on your couch will add a sense of comfortable warmth and allow for a lower thermostat setting.

Updating your home decor is more than just fun; it can also help make your home cozy and more energy-efficient for this winter season.

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