For businesses in northern climates, winter can be brutal \u2013 especially when it comes time to pay heating bills. And bills this year could be far higher than last year, especially for businesses that rely on heating oil, as the Utica Observer-Dispatch points out. There are several good reasons you should try to rein in heating costs. First, of course, it boosts the bottom line. \u00a0Businesses can shave 20 percent or more off their heating costs by taking some fairly simple, low-cost measures. Moreover, it\u2019s good for the environment. There are some low-cost ways to keep heating costs in check. Here are five energy-saving strategies to consider before winter arrives: 1)\u00a0\u00a0\u00a0\u00a0\u00a0 Stop the drafts. Warm air leaking out of your store or office can be responsible for about 20 percent of heating costs, according to the Department of Energy. The irony is that this problem could easily be fixed after a quick shopping trip to the local hardware store; weather stripping for doors can cost less than $15 and is easy to install. Don\u2019t forget the windows, which are another big source of air drafts. There are a variety of solutions --from hot-air sealed window plastic to window films and window shades \u2013 that could fit your needs. Be careful, though, because lots of sunlight through southern-facing windows can actually provide some heating benefits. 2)\u00a0\u00a0\u00a0\u00a0\u00a0 Make sure your furnace or boiler is functioning properly. A professional tune-up can reduce energy usage by more than 2 percent by getting debris out of the furnace system. Changing the air filter once a month helps, too; it also bolsters efficiency and keeps the air clean. Also don\u2019t forget the water heater. Putting insulation around the water heater tank and hot water pipes can sometimes halve the heat loss. 3)\u00a0\u00a0\u00a0\u00a0\u00a0 Install a smart thermostat. Getting a programmable thermostat that lets you set the temperatures for various times of day \u2013 so you can lower it when the business is closed and raise it again an hour or two before open \u2013 can save hundreds of dollars over the course of a winter. Most programmables nowadays cost less than $100, so they pay for themselves in less than a year of use. Once you have the thermostat, this U.S. EPA article will help you learn how to use it properly. 4)\u00a0\u00a0\u00a0\u00a0\u00a0 Use ceiling fans. Many people use ceiling fans in the summer to stay cool. But fans can actually benefit your business even more in the winter. Warm air rises and can get trapped by the ceiling. So a ceiling fan moving in reverse (clockwise) pushes the air down and effectively warms you up. 5) Take advantage of rebates. Replacing\u00a0 an old furnace or boiler isn\u2019t cheap, but if the equipment is really old and really inefficient, you might see a quick payback by replacing it with a new Energy Star-qualified, high-efficiency model. Many utility companies now offer rebates and other incentives for putting in high-efficiency heating equipment. It\u2019s not exactly the low-hanging fruit. But it can make a huge difference when it comes to your heating bills and your winter comfort. You can find out if your local government or utility offers rebates on the Database of State Incentives for Renewables & Efficiency.