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Stand up to Jack Frost

The cost of home heating fuel is going through the roof. Often quite literally. Homes — like human heads — lose most of their heat out the top. (You can tell who hasn't gotten the word. Their roofs are usually free of snow).

With the price of natural gas up 71 percent nationally and 13 percent locally, and with family budgets stretched like salt water taffy, many businesses and service organizations are offering ideas for winterizing homes to lower heating bills. Even the gas companies, looking to head off a public relations debacle, have been offering tips for taking some of the bite out of the upcoming heating bills.

Good insulation in the ceiling is just one way to keep heat from escaping. Here are others:

One real estate Web site suggests vacuuming out all the heating vents and wrapping "heat tape" or insulation around pipes and water heaters. Having a professional check out your heating system for unseen problems is also a good idea.

A do-it-yourself Web site suggests making sure there are no loose shingles on the roof and that chimneys have a screen over them. Sealing windows and applying weather stripping to doors is always a plus. The site also suggests when checking windows and doors for drafts, use the back of the hand. The back of the hand is more sensitive to temperature changes.

And according to a site dedicated to frugal living, "heat leakage" occurs in fireplaces and through the vents of clothes dryers in astounding amounts. An open fireplace damper can raise a heating bill by as much as 30 percent. And that sheet-metal damper on the clothes dryer vent is hopelessly out-dated. Cold air simply rushes in around it. The site suggests getting a dryer vent seal.

Questar, KSL and others offer more tips on their Web sites.

In the end, given the exploding cost of gas, many Americans are on the verge of a true winter of discontent. We urge people to keep an eye out for themselves but also for the elderly and those living alone. A little shared firewood may go a long way to help someone make it through.

Whether or not a village can raise a child, a village certainly is capable of watching out for the less fortunate — especially during the Utah winter, when even Mother Nature can seem more villainous than virtuous.