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Good Question: What Difference Does A Few Degrees Make On Heating Bills?

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) -- CenterPoint Energy says customers should expect this month's bill to be 35-50 percent higher than last month because of the record cold. According to Xcel Energy, its customers are expected to use 14 percent more natural gas this January compared to January 2013.

And those numbers have a few people fiddling with their thermostats. Laurie Ducharme from Anoka sets her thermostat at 69 during the day, but drops it down to 64 at night.

"It's worth it, it's worth it," she said. "Put on a sweater."

That had us wondering: What difference do a few degrees make on our heating bills?

"Anytime you operate your furnace at a lower temperature, you're going to be using less gas and less energy," said Wayne Jensen, a master service technician with CenterPoint Energy.

The Department of Energy says every degree you drop can save 1 percent on your heating bill.

"The longer you do it, the more energy you save," Jensen said.

He recommends dropping the temperature for at least six to eight hours to make a significant difference.

"If you set back for a short time, you're going to be using quite a bit of energy to warm your house back up," he said.

Energy Star recommends setting your thermostat at 68 degrees and dropping it six to seven degrees at night. CenterPoint Energy says dropping from 68 degrees to 58 degrees for at least four hours could save you an average of 10 percent on your bill.

But Jensen says some factors can affect the amount of savings.

"It's so hard to compare apples to apples," he said. "The colder the temperature outside might make a difference."

And, for some, the few dollars spent is worth the extra warmth on a 20 below day.

"There's something about being comfortable that you need," said Corey Schoultz of Hugo.

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