There are things you can do now while the weather is mild to make sure the impact won’t sting as much next year.

The end of winter comes as a big relief for most Americans, and not just because of the arrival of more comfortable weather. Finally, there’s an end to those record high home heating bills.

According to the U.S. Department of Energy, Americans spent an average of 9.8 percent more on their home heating bills this winter than during the previous year. Heating oil prices went up the most – 21.8 percent over the previous year. The average cost of heating a home using heating oil was $ 1,785 this winter.

With the price of a barrel of oil in record territory, it looks like high home heating prices are here to stay, but there are things you can do now while the weather is mild to make sure the impact won’t sting as much next year.

Here are some steps you can take to green up your home today:

* Replace your old fireplace with an EPA certified clean-burning wood fireplace. They are a lot more energy efficient than standard wood burning fireplaces because they provide heat by burning both the wood and the resulting smoke.

“Half the heat generated in an EPA certified appliance, whether it’s a stove, an insert or fireplace, comes from burning the smoke. Upgrading to one of these means less trips to the wood pile, cleaning the chimney less and cleaner air outside,” says Steve Tate of Quadra-Fire, the leading manufacturer of clean-burning hearth appliances.

* If burning firewood isn't for you, another option is to convert your wood burning fireplace into a powerful, high efficiency heat source with a Quadra-Fire pellet-burning insert that fits into your existing wood-burning fireplace. Pellets are made of sawdust and wood waste from lumber yards, furniture factories and other wood industries. “By burning pellets, you can enjoy natural sustainable heat that is not only more green, but more convenient and consistent as well. If you set your unit’s thermostat at 72, it will warm your home to that temperature then shut off and won’t overheat the space,” says Tate.

* If you want the convenience of a gas fireplace, look for one with direct-vent technology that meets the criteria for the Energy Star Indoor Air Package. Heat & Glo and Heatilator are good choices.

In addition to greening up your home heating, here are some other environmentally friendly upgrades you may want to consider:

* When it comes time to upgrade your flooring, consider using reclaimed wood. There are several companies in the marketplace that offer planks made out of boards recovered from old barns and buildings.

* Equip your home with a rainwater catchment system that collects, filters, stores and delivers rainwater for non-potable uses in the home, such as for toilets. Rainwater is diverted from the roof, filtered, and then stored in an underground holding tank next to the home.

For more information about these and other heating options available, visit

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