With energy costs and fuel prices rising and the bills for heating and holiday gifts on their way, hurricanes interrupting oil production, and cold weather, ShoreBank’s energy specialist James Cavallo offers four “do-it-yourself,” low-cost ways to reduce heating costs this winter while keeping your home comfortable:

1) Open draperies and shades when the sun is out to take advantage of the warmth provided by Mother Nature. Close them after dark to create an extra barrier against the chill outside your windows.

2) Check whether your water heater is set too high. It should not be over 120 degrees. You can check the temperature by turning on your hot water and measuring the temperature with a meat thermometer. If it’s above 120, turn the dial on your water heater down slightly, and check it again in two days. This will save energy and will eliminate a scalding hazard in your house.

3) Replace incandescent/filament light bulbs with energy-efficient fluorescent light bulbs.

4) On a windy day, test how airtight your home is. Wet a finger and hold it near areas where air is likely to escape, such as around windows, doors, electrical boxes, plumbing fixtures, outlets, ceiling fixtures, and attic hatches. Wherever you feel a draft, consider using caulk or weather-stripping to seal the leak.

These are all simple free or inexpensive steps things you can do to help reduce monthly your heating bills and stay warm this winter. Additional tips are available at www.sbk.com.