Harrisburg – As colder weather arrives and as electric rates for many consumers are expected to rise by as much as 30 percent next year, help is available for Pennsylvanians who are trying to stay warm this winter.

The state's Turn Down, Seal Off, Save Up initiative offers energy conservation tips and resources for getting financial help with utility bills.

"Heating costs consume a major portion of any household budget and poor energy efficiency robs your home of warmth and takes money out of your pocket," said Department of Environmental Protection Secretary John Hanger. "Many of our residents will struggle this winter trying to stay warm. A home energy audit can find ways to make our homes warmer and, by using less energy, produce significant dollar savings."

An energy audit evaluates a home's energy use. It calculates how much energy is used, how efficiently it is used, and suggests ways to make a home more energy efficient. An audit can reveal potential savings totaling hundreds of dollars.

Homeowners can perform a simple energy audit themselves or they can hire a trained professional to do a more thorough evaluation.

A self-audit can detect easy-to-spot places that allow warm air to escape and cold air to enter your home like drafty windows and doors. Simple, inexpensive steps such as adding weather stripping to windows and doors, and replacing old incandescent light bulbs with energy-efficient compact fluorescent bulbs will lead to an immediate savings of both energy and money.

A professionally trained energy auditor will use sophisticated equipment to do a more thorough evaluation and search for less obvious sources of energy loss, such as insufficient insulation. Additional corrective measures include:

Ÿ Upgrading the heating system;

Ÿ Increasing attic insulation while being careful not to hinder adequate roof ventilation;

Ÿ Replacing old appliances with more efficient ENERGY STAR units;

Ÿ Installing storm windows and doors;

Ÿ Installing a programmable thermostat; and

Ÿ Replacing or insulating old water heaters.

"A home energy audit provides a snapshot of your current situation. It's a first step in the battle against higher energy bills," said Hanger. "In order to maximize the benefits an energy audit offers, it will be necessary to correct any energy-related problems the audit may discover.

"Remember, the less energy you use, the more money you save. With the electric rate caps set to expire, many Pennsylvanians will face higher utility bills in the coming weeks and months. Saving money by reducing energy consumption can help ease financial burdens as we head into the coldest part of the year."

For additional energy saving tips, and for information on financial assistance with utility bills, visit www.TurnSealSave.org.