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7 Tips to Reduce Your Heating Bills This Winter


Guest post by Sean from Free Snatcher and One Smart Dollar

With the colder months almost upon us, you may be concerned about the cost of your utilities rising as the temperature outside goes down. The winter months already come with additional expenses due to the holidays, so why not follow a few tips to cut your heating bill down so you can spend less money on keeping warm and more money on the things you enjoy?

You do not have to undergo a large home improvement project in order to save money on your heating bill.

Before deciding to take on home renovation projects to save money on utilities make sure you figure out the cost of the improvement and how much you will really be saving each year. Compare these costs and decide if the upgrade to your home is worth it.

The investment you may make in energy efficient windows or a fireplace insulator may not pay off for a number of years, so you should calculate how much the project will cost, how much you will save on utilities each year, and how many more years you are going to be living in your home. This will help you decide whether the project will pay off in the long term. If you do undertake a home improvement project, check to see whether there are any tax breaks or homeowner’s insurance policy discounts you can qualify for adding energy efficient items to your home.

If you decide to forgo the home improvement projects because you do not want to spend a lot of money upfront, here are seven simple ways to reduce the cost of heating your home this winter:

1. Turn down your thermostat.

You do not need to be living in tropical conditions at your home during the winter months. Find a temperature that is comfortable that you and the members of your household can live with, and keep the thermostat fixed at that temperature.

Also, make sure to turn down your thermostat when you are out of the house and at night when you go to sleep. You can turn it down manually, but a programmable thermostat works best because it does the work for you!

In addition, only heat rooms you actually use. If you don’t use your spare bedroom, storage room, or parts of your basement, don’t pay to heat them.

2. Open and close your blinds.

In order to keep the heat in your house, make sure that your blinds and curtains are open during the day. This will allow natural sunlight and warmth into your home to help heat it. At night, make sure to close your blinds and curtains in order to trap the heat in and not allow it to escape via the window.

3. Winterize your windows.

You can buy plastic film to cover your windows, which will curb drafts and keep heat from escaping. Although this may not be the most attractive solution, it can help reduce heating costs.

4. Block all drafts.

Inspect your door frames to make sure no drafts are coming into your home through cracks or other spaces. If there is a crack, repair it yourself or have it repaired so cold air is not coming into your home. You can also purchase or make door snakes or put towels in front of the bottom of your door to prevent cold air from coming in.

5. Make sure your furnace is working properly.

Check your furnace to see if your air filter is clean. An unclogged air filter will help your heating system work more efficiently.

Air filters are very inexpensive to replace (they cost anywhere from $5 to $20) and will help your heating system to work as it should. You may also want to have your furnace checked by a professional in order to see if it is working in the most cost-effective way to heat your home.

6. Use your ceiling fans.

Fans can be used during the winter in order to suck up warm air through your home and distributing it to help keep your house warm. Set your fan to blow air towards the ceiling. This will allow it to evenly heat the room.

7. Contact your utility company.

Many utility companies offer specific tips by phone, email, or on their website to help you save money on your utility bills. Some companies will even send a representative to your home and conduct an energy audit and will offer ideas on how to help you use less energy and reduce your utility costs.

Sean Bryant is a personal finance blogger at and He enjoys helping people spend and manage their money more effectively.

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  • Emily says:

    I have #8 and #9 – if you have a house with an attached garage, keep the garage door closed. It provides an additional barrier against the elements. Also, if you have a fireplace, make sure the flue is closed tightly at all times.

  • We turn our heater on maybe once or twice a year. It’s easy to heat up the kitchen by baking, turning on the fire, or get warm by bundling up. My family is much more comfortable in cooler weather, though, which is why our AC runs nonstop from May through November 🙂

  • D says:

    We insulated our house this year. It had no insulation before this and it already is noticeably keeping the heat (and cool) in much better. Our electric company also paid for half the cost of the insulation with energy credits they had.

    If we didn’t turn our heat on it would be very cold in our house since we don’t get very much solar gain.

  • Kerri says:

    We tried the window film but it didn’t work on our windows. Once our our electric bill hit $900 for a single month, we knew we needed to take drastic measures. My hubby bought white foam board insulation and cut them to size to sit in our windows, behind the blinds. Our bill dropped $250 the first month. Getting new windows is not feasible as we live in a historic area and we would be forced to get super pricey replacement windows that are historically appropriate. We have over 40 windows! We did leave open areas in the windows that we need to be able to see out. And, we could always pop the others out easily if we needed to escape due to fire or whatever.

    • beth b says:

      What an interesting idea! I’m going to mention this to my husband as we have a similar problem. Older house with the original woodworking around non-standard size windows. Doing this in just a few of the windows in the front of our house would make a huge difference.

    • Kaidi says:

      What a difference in your heating bill! I cannot imagine paying this much anyway, but it’s wonderful how you found a way to reduce your bill. A question, though – is it now really dark in your house – those open areas, I’m guessing, are not very big. I am just really curious.

    • Jessica says:

      We have 150 yr old windows in New England. We can’t replace them but we did get new storm windows and it made a HUGE difference.

  • We struggle with keeping our house warm (and not paying an arm and a leg to do it) every winter because we live in an older house that isn’t well insulated. One thing I do is hang up blankets over doorways so that I can use one little space heater to keep that room warm, and turn down the thermostat for the rest of the house. It’s not an attractive solution, but it works!

  • We keep our thermostat low at night (55 degrees) and at a comfortable (with a sweater) temperature during the day. Putting on a few extra layers of clothes can really cut costs!

  • Misty says:

    You can also save money by Applying for a level payment plan. The prorate the last 12 months and that is what you pay monthly. It’s a lot easier to pay something that is budgeted.

    Also, I have lived in the country in old drafty houses. Some people put hay bales at the foundation to block the wind on the north side of their home.

  • Challice says:

    We have a wood burning stove and tahts all. We live in 850 sq ft brick home (no insulation) so you can wake up to a 30-40F home. But all of our wood is free. We have never paid for wood. During the year my husband dumpster dives. Which means he gets all the wood pallets that stores are throwing out. Cut em up and there we go. A lot of people have dead tree’s around here so we offer to go clean them up and hubby cuts them up and voila. Old furniture that is warped and broken, we take it and burn it.

    We have a section in our yard that looks like a junk yard. I admit I dont like it. I’m more into pretty landscaping than practical. But I have to admit, our electricity bill never changes in the winter time.

    We have heard some of our frugal friends say that they just dont have time to do it like we do… to which my husband often chuckles. He leaves for work around 7:30 and doesnt get home until 7 most nights. He is a automotive mechanic which means hard strenuous work. He’s exhausted. He isnt young anymore. But he’ll come home and cut up wood in the dark. Not really want a guy wants to do when he gets home from work but he does it for our family.

    Dont get me wrong, I truly believe that there are people that dont have time but you always have to give up something to do something else. We dont have time to do everything. I gave up nights with my hubby so he can work to provide for his family. We often leave notes for each other but thats the way it is. 🙂

    • Amber says:

      It sounds like you have a great attitude! 🙂

    • beth b says:

      My husband grew up in the country with a wood burning stove(in addition to radiators) and it was great when the power went out. I worry about that living in the city. We have no way of heating our house w/o electricity and I really don’t want to camp out at my husband’s work for days. A good friend of mine lives in upstate NY and almost everyone there has backup generators. Not practical for us but it’s tempting!

    • Autumn says:

      I agree. Great attitude and gratitude. Goes along way. 🙂 If people gave up even a “little” tv time there could be boat loads of found time. Funny. If something is important enough you will find/make the time.

  • A couple of years ago my hubby installed a fireplace in our home. We bought the firebox new at a building salvage place and then bought the chimney pipe online. We spent a little less than $500 installing it and it paid for itself the first winter we installed it. We are working our way out of debt and we are trying some out of the box ideas while we work our way out of it.

  • Lana says:

    My parents keep their house at 77 degrees in the winter and we absolutely feel like we are melting when we go there! We are comfortable at 69 in the daytime and turn it down at night.

  • Thankfully we live in a warmer climate so we haven’t gotten snow or a good freeze yet (some of our fall garden’s still going). We have double pane windows on the house, brick exterior, and close the doors (and shut off the vents) in the rooms we don’t use as often. Putting on a sweater or extra layer makes a big difference.

    Right now our thermostat doesn’t kick on unless it hits 59 degrees in our house. Although I do want to add if you have small children or when your kids are sick it may be a good idea to bump it up a few degrees.

    On # 5 – “A clogged air filter will help your heating system work more efficiently.” – I may be wrong but shouldn’t it read “An unclogged air filter or clean air filter…….”

    Thanks for sharing these great reminders! 🙂

  • Amy W says:

    A humidifier helps make it feel warmer!

  • Aimes says:

    Great advice! (although you might want to read paragraph 1 in #5 for a typo)

    Another cheap and easy one is to add insulating sheets to your outlet and switch plate covers. Very easy to install (unscrew plate cover, insert pre-cut sheet and reattach plate) and available for less than $5.

    We had a new roof put on and I added more insulation to the attic during the process. That was a hefty improvement and I’m really hoping to see a return this winter.

    • Amy W says:

      We did that outlet thing too!
      We also did cellulose blown in insulation in a portion of our house ( we have a high pitch roof, and blew it into the triangle parts on the side, if that makes sense.)
      Cost about $40 i think from Home Depot. We are already noticeing a difference in that room!

      If you have old windows, at least caulk around them-inside and out!
      Fill every crack you see! LOL
      That plastic window film really helped us.

      Weather stripping around all doors.

      Check under sinks and other pipes, that can let in a lot of draft and cold air without realizing it.

  • amy brendtro says:

    My husband and I live in Alaska. We found the advice to turn the temperature down at night to actually cost us money. If you live in a colder climate, your furnace will have to labor and burn more energy to get the temperature up in the morning. I had thought we would save money by turning it down at night. My husband did not think so. he thought it would cost more because of the catch up. We did it a month my way and a month his way. He was right and the cost savings was fairly significant!!

  • Um, I think this line “A clogged air filter will help your heating system work more efficiently.” might be incorrect. Also, my filter costs about $38. That’s a little more than $20. Some newer houses have quite large filters that are quite expensive.

    • Crystal says:

      Just seeing if you were paying attention. 🙂 No, actually, thanks for catching the typo.

    • Becky says:

      Do you buy pleated filters? Cause I’ve worked in the Heating/Air business for 11 yrs now and there are very few filters that cost $20 at our cost or the customers.. NEVER use pleated filters.. the air needs to be able to get thru the filter and the thick pleated or 2″ filters make it more difficult.. Regular 1″ filters changed every 4-6 weeks works better than anything..

  • Thank you for the awesome tips! We have an old drafty house and aren’t ready to replace all of the windows yet – huge job and expense!!

  • Megan says:

    Another tip for those with natural gas water heaters and gas heat… a water heater blanket/jacket. The cost of this was made up the first month comparing it to the same month the year previous. It doesn’t look pretty but it works! Around $20 (or sometimes less) at Home Depot/Lowes/etc.

  • Nic P says:

    “A clogged air filter will help your heating system work more efficiently.”

    Had to chuckle at this typo

  • Meredith says:

    I always find these articles funny…for my situation that is. I live in SC and where it’s warmer that a lot of the rest of the US, it still does get cold here. However, our house has a lot of windows. Where you may think that may make it cold, the position of our house gets direct sunlight almost the ENTIRE day. It gets sweltering. I wear tank tops inside the house all winter. Right now, it’s 60 degrees outside, I have my windows open and it’s 79 in my house. I have not had the heat on!!!! It gets colder at night but our house never gets below 69 unless we have a snow or deep freeze. I love wearing sweaters so I get excited when I get to leave the house. However, summer is a different story. My house gets up to the upper 80’s – 90’s if I don’t turn on the AC. So winter is my time to have a low heat/electric bill!!!

    • Becky says:

      I feel your pain!! I’m in S. GA and I would love to wear something warm.. Instead I am still in short sleeves and flip flops and I wear a tank top all winter at home too..

    • Christy says:

      Charleston area—we definitely spend a lot more in the summer! Gotta have the a/c. And we set the thermostat on 79 in the summer (run ceiling fans). It still costs way more than the winter heating costs.

    • Andrea says:

      Cover the windows with thermal drapes. They help keep warm air in, but they also help keep hot air out in the summer!

  • Becky says:

    In regards to heating unused rooms, I’ve heard the opposite advice from some energy experts. I don’t remember the specifics, but it was something about the furnace running less efficiently when you block the flow to a room.

    We just adjusted (raised) the wood piece under our front door to reduce the gap. The door closes a little harder, but it was an easy, free fix. Just needed a screwdriver.

    We also bought a reusable furnace filter last fall. It was only around $20 or $25 and we shouldn’t have to replace it for 10-20 years. How cool is that? We just wash it monthly.

    • amanda says:

      I have had 2 energy audits done by different people and both said to leave all of the vents open. Your energy system has to work a lot harder if you close down your rooms.

      • lisa says:

        My HVAC guy just said the same thing about leaving all of the vents open.

      • Christy says:

        I am not as familiar with cold weather issues since we live in coastal SC–it gets cold, but rarely goes below freezing, most winters anyway. Can there be issues with shutting off a room–damage to the contents of the room? I know if we were to shut of the a/c to a room during the summer around here, the humidity would ruin many of the belongings in that room. When we travel in the summer, we run our a/c on 85 (it still runs, it’s 100 + outside), but at least it keeps the humidity out to run it some. I am a teacher. One summer, the school district decided to save money by turning off the a/c over the summer. When we returned in late July, there was mildew on the desk tops. Many of our storybooks were ruined due to warped pages. They have not done that since, thank goodness. It would be better to run the a/c on 90–not as much energy to run it and it at least dries up the humidity.

    • Andrea says:

      Our HVAC guy said that closing one or two vents in our large home isn’t really a problem, but not to close off huge sections of the house. He did caution us not to block the “returns” (the vents that suck air back into the furnace).

  • LK says:

    I always giggle when I see these posts, as we live in AZ where just this month we are starting to see the air conditioning not running all hours of the day and night. Our big electric bills are May-October! Nonetheless, all of these tips apply (albeit some in reverse) for keeping our house cooler in the hot summers. We go a year sometimes never turning our furnace on. 🙂

    • Meredith says:

      See my post above. I am in SC and the heat doesn’t get turned on too much during the winter. It gets colder mind you but the sun stays brutal so our house stays warm. My electric bill that I get in August is a monster because sometimes it has to be ran constantly to keep it in the upper 70’s. I also have been enjoying how everyone is loving their crockpot soups, stews and is baking because of the fall. We’re still grilling down here!

  • Michelle says:

    #6 doesn’t make sense to me since warm air naturally rises???? I would think that you would want to pull the warm air down from the ceiling so that the lower portion of the room felt warmer. My brother rented a house for a short while that had all the heat vents in the ceiling. The house never felt warm because all of the heat stayed at the ceiling and never reached “people” level.

    Also, I think the best way to make your house feel warmer is to go outside and play in snow with the kids. =) After an hour or two in the cold the house will feel toasty when you come in. haha

    • Autumn says:

      That’s so true. We go for a walk after dinner around our lake and it feels very warm and toasty when we come back inside.

    • Kelly says:

      You put you fans on reverse. It pushes the warm air down.

      • Michelle says:

        Right, that is what I would do but #6 says to do the opposit and pull the air up. “Set your fan to blow air towards the ceiling.” That is what didn’t make sense to me.

        • Jen says:

          It helps the warmer air circulate by pulling the cooler air up from the floor, which pushes the warmer air to move down toward the ground.

  • Keep hot beverages available! This allows us to keep the heat lower, yet nobody complains:)

  • Rebekah says:

    The second half of #1 does NOT apply if you have a heat pump! You can play with the thermostat when the A/C is running, but not the heat. It has to work way too hard to play catch up. What does work, however, is choosing a low setting and leaving it there. 😉 We kept ours on 71 last winter and thanks to posts like these, have been inspired to knock it down to 67. I only get cold in the afternoon when I finally get to sit down and rest for a while, and when I first get into bed. 😉

    • Stephanie says:

      This is also what we were told when our new furnace was installed in 2010. I was so used to adjusting the termostate I didn’t believe the guy at first. But after hearing it run for a few hours to catch up, I stopped adjusting it. Also had to then convence DH of it. =)

      We have an upstairs room that gets used but isn’t a main room. The stairs to get up there go by an attic crawlspace door that isn’t insulated. Just inside this door is a roof vent. By closing the door to the room and putting up an old curtain (on an old shower curtain rod) at the bottom of the stairs, we keep our downstairs heat downstairs and the upstairs heat upstairs. No more sauna upstairs but we also aren’t losing any heat to the outside nor freezing downstairs.

      • Stephanie says:

        Also on a similar note, my parents cut a “window” into their downstairs door, where the wood stove is. Dad made a square and framed it with trim that you would use around window frames or your ceiling. This allows some of the warm air upstairs without having to leave the door open (cat isn’t allowed upstairs and sometime you want the kids to stay on a certain level too).

    • Christine says:

      I kept a vent closed in an unused room last winter but I have a heat pump and read that if you do this, it can actually cause damage to your heat pump. So this year I am not planning to. 🙁

  • Becky says:

    #5—NEVER use pleated filters.. the air needs to be able to get thru the filter and the thick pleated or 2″ filters make it more difficult.. Regular 1″ filters changed every 4-6 weeks works better than anything..

  • Michelle says:

    I would recomend calling your energy company and asking if your state is running any energy audit special programs. I live in CT and our oil company offered it to us. When I said that I hadn’t heard of the program the rep told me that is was actully money that went to the states as part of the bailout package but that it wasn’t very well advertised. Here it costs $75 but our oil company was offering a special for $25 if we scheduled it before the end of the month. I signed up and on the appointed day a couple of energy audit “specialist” came to my house did the huge fan in the front door thing to measure losses then they went through and weather stripped everything, changed out light bulbs for energy effecient ones, gave us a little gadget that we can plug things into and it tells you how much energy that item uses, and went over even more changes that we could make that they couldn’t. The weather stripping and light bulbs would have cost us more than $25 plus they installed them. Each state is doing this differently but it sounded like you have dig a little in order to find out what is available to you.

  • Amy H. says:

    When we had a two story house we found that if we closed the upstairs vents and opened the downstairs we had a lower heating bill and it helped keep the house evenly heated. Reverse that in the summer, (downstairs closed, upstairs opened).

  • Dawn Dart says:

    Our programmable thermostat cost us about $23 and instantly was saving us about $25 per month.

    I also do budget billing for electric and gas. It is much easier to budget for.

  • Pamela says:

    I am confused about the ceiling fan idea…..I always thought the fan had to be (blowing toward the floor) because hot air rises. Anyone know???

    • Aimes says:

      Try it, it works. In the summer you have the fans blowing down and you feel a breeze on you, cooling you. In the winter, reverse the direction and they will blow ‘up’. The effect of this is to pull the cooler air up to the ceiling and push the warmer air down the sides of the room toward the people, just not with the accompanying breeze as that would kinda defeat the purpose.

      We have a ductless furnace and two ceiling fans in a large den. Using the ‘up’ winter setting distributes the heat from the furnace well throughout the room.

      Since the den is in the basement below the bedrooms, I set the thermostat low and let the heat rise to keep those rooms cool but warm enough for sleeping.

  • KellyH says:

    Something we did in our old farmhouse sadly in need of new windows was invest in the sheets of house insulation (don’t know the trade name, stuff the put up on the outside before the siding) and cut it to fit our windows and doors we didn’t use during the winter. Made a huge difference!! We also block off our outside cellar door entrance- another huge place for a draft.

    A couple years ago, I invested in an Under Armor shirt to wear under my shirts. I couldn’t recommend it more, and in fact there are several knock off kinds out there now that work too. Even if there weren’t, the price for the UA shirt (and I have pants too) was more than worth it.


  • Mercedes V. says:

    This tip really worked for me last winter – I taped bubble wrap on my windows. Still get some light and the cold stays out. Try one room and you will notice the difference immediately

    • Whitney says:

      We’re planning on doing this immediately in our three-level townhome. The temperature differences are just too extreme to be remotely comfortable!

  • Joan says:

    In our home, we close off the heat in the garage and the 3rd bedroom once it hits December. We have to separate heating and cooling systems for the house, so it’s very easily. Luckily the master bedroom and the kids are on the other side of the house. It saves us about $90 just to not heat a room we’re not using.

  • Elizabeth says:

    In July, our last chick left the nest so being we are just 2, it is easier to save energy. I was getting these monthly irritating mailings from the electric company about us consuming more than most other households of same size. Which is like comparing apples to oranges really…after all, what family has all the exact same of anything anyway? So I began trying to figure out more ways to save (HATED those bills over $200 a month especially, on the hottest or coldest months). We live in central NC. One thing I had already been doing was running the washer and dryer after 9 PM at night which saved some. And also the dishwasher. Then I started turning off the hot water heater. Because with just us 2, we often shower about the same time and it is easy to do laundry, dishwasher, etc. every other day or so. Our last bill was an unbelievable $118!! Of course, it was not as hot or cold as the extremes. However, I have had just 3 days this year that were warm enough and cool enough to have the windows open most of the day. With the humidity here, generally that or the heat or cold makes it impossible. We were only about 3 weeks ago with 83 degree days and NOW? This AM it was only 30 degrees. I hate this climate that only goes from hot to cold and nothing inbetween!! And the humidity is another awful thing to deal with. I have no idea how well the hot water issue will do over winter, as sometimes when the weather is not extreme, we have had maybe 36 hours or so we could leave it off and still have heat enough for warm showers. So we shall see. Thanks for the other comments here…some things I was not aware of that will better serve in this climate!! (We have been here over 8 years now, but still learning things).
    Elizabeth in NC

  • Replacing the furnace won’t save energy. About 10 years ago, we replaced the furnace in house that was built in 1980. The salesman told us that, because the ducts in the houses in our neighborhood weren’t big enough, a high-efficiency furnace would be no better than a mid-efficiency one.

  • Carrie says:

    My husband insulated our attic with sprayed celluose. It was under $300 and it saved us at least $50 per month on our heating bills. It paid for it’s self within one year. It definitely has the highest r-value for it’s money. We cover our windows with the shrinking plastic. It helps on drafts a ton. Also, this year I got insulated shades for my daughter’s room and I already notice a difference in the temp.

  • Meegan says:

    Adding to #4 about drafts, I have found that my windows tend to leak air in the winter where the top and bottom panels meet. You can’t seal the window there or you would never be able to open it.

    My solution? I take dryer lint and a pen. Use the pen to stuff the dryer lint into the crevice. When springs comes, it will fall out as soon as you open the window for the first time. I keep stuffing lint in until I can no longer feel cold air coming out. If you do a good enough stuffing job, no one will ever know the lint is there!

    • Bonnie says:

      I do a similar thing on my doorwall that has the same problem. I cut rags into small strips and stuff them in as far as they will go till I feel less cold then I cover the area with duct tape. 🙂

  • Andrea says:

    #8 Lose electricity for five days due to early winter storm.

    • Michelle says:

      Oh, I feel so much for those without power. I don’t know how you are managing. We lost power only for less than one day but there are over 600 homes in my town that still don’t have power. This weekend we have to go out and clean up all our broken limbs/trees. It has been too dark to do it when my husband gets home from work and I’m not up on using the chainsaw yet. I must say that laying in bed and listening to all the cracks and pops and thuds echoing through the neighborhood was very sureal. Just sat there waiting till morning to find out which trees and how bad it was.

    • Rachel says:

      I’m kindof looking forward to seeing my electric bill after being without electricity for a full week! I wonder when they’ll finish getting everyone connected….. 🙁

  • Andrea says:

    * thermal drapes or heavy curtains on most windows
    * if you have a pull-down door/ladder that goes to the attic, buy (or make) an attic cap

  • One word of caution about only heating areas that you use. This can actually be less than efficient. Last winter, we rented a 4 BR house and some of the vents (and rooms) were closed off. We thought it was helping, but it actually caused our furnace to shut down.

    The furnace guy explained that a furnace is designed to work specifically for a particular house, so if you close vents and shut off parts of the house, it actually has to work HARDER to heat the house.

    So, while you think it’s helping, it may actually be making things worse. I’d check with professionals before doing that.

    Thankfully, we live in a much smaller house this winter! And we like it cold(er), so we keep the thermostat quite low.

  • mark says:

    Living in an apartment where you pay for the heat is a no-win situation. Landlords have no incentive to reduce my heating bills, but they’re also not going to let me make any improvements to reduce my heating bills because they don’t want me messing with their property. Even worse when you have electric baseboard heat that costs almost $400/month. All I can do is cover the windows with plastic, wear lots of clothes, hope for a mild winter, and bite the bullet. I’ll never rent another place without heat included again.

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