From an article by Shelly Birkelo in the Jansville Gazette:

JANESVILLE — Have you broken down and turned on your furnace yet?

It’s natural to wait as long as possible in an effort to keep your winter heating costs down.

There are, however, other ways to spend less money and save energy starting with an annual furnace inspection.

“It will probably cost between $50 and $100, but it is important to make sure your furnace is running correctly and efficiently,” said Steven Schultz, Alliant Energy communications program manager.

A checkup also will clean out dust or dirt, he said.

“Dust and dirt can clog vital parts, making your furnace run harder and eventually break down,” Schultz said.

It’s also the best prevention against deadly carbon monoxide poisoning, according to Alliant’s monthly Natural Gas update newsletter.

To find an energy-smart heating contractor in your area, visit dealerlocator.

A home energy evaluation also can help consumers understand where their energy is going, Schultz said.

“It can show you where heat is escaping during the winter, for example, and will provide you with a blueprint for weatherizing your home,” he said.

For details about how you can do a home energy audit, visit, Schultz said.

Focus on Energy, Wisconsin’s statewide energy-efficiency and renewable energy initiative, also is a good source for energy and money-savings tips, Schultz said.

It is funded by all of the state’s utilities and can be accessed by visiting or calling 1-800-762-7077, he said.