Brrr It's getting cold out there!

Winterizing your home

While you were having fun in the sun this summer, it was no vacation for your house. Sun, wind and rain can cause as much wear and tear as snow and ice. A fall checklist will tip you off to some problems before they become nasty mid-winter surprises, here are a few things to check off your list:

Give Your Heating System a Tune-Up

You probably already know that cars need periodic tune-ups in order to run their best. Well the same is true for heating equipment. Keeping your furnace clean, lubricated and properly adjusted will reduce energy use. The good news is many utilities offer free annual checkups by qualified technicians but you often have to call early, as HVAC crews get backed up once heating season starts. Some furnace manufacturers and dealers also offer free or discounted inspections. If your entire furnace is in need of replacement, it will cost a lot more but replacing an inefficient burner for a modern machine will save you every month throughout the heating season.

Mind That Thermostat

It's easy to forget to turn down the heat when you leave the building, but doing so is one of the surest ways to save money. Most households shell out a lot of money of their energy budgets on heating and cooling, so why pay for what no one uses. For every degree you lower the thermostat during heating season you are saving money. Make it easier with smart thermostats like the nest; it will do all the work for you. Use an Energy Monitor to measure your way into savings. An energy monitor will indicate household electrical usage in real time and projects your monthly bill. Research has found that such info leads consumers to reduce their electricity consumption significantly. By seeing exactly how much each appliance or activity costs, you'll start seeing easy ways to cut waste. Go a step further and ask your local utility company if it's making smart meters available in your area, as part of recent federal smart grid investments.

Dodge the Draft

Start simple and adopt that old Great Depression fixture, the draft snake, which you can easily make yourself. Just place a rolled bath towel under a drafty door. You can use any scraps of fabric Make sure drafts aren't giving your thermostat a false reading too, and read on for more advanced solutions. Another tip, the simple installation of storm doors and windows can increase energy efficiency by sealing drafts and reducing air flow. Storm doors also offer greater flexibility for letting light and ventilation enter your home. Similarly, storm windows can make a huge difference when the cold wind starts blowing. It may be a pain, but it is well worth it to get them out of the shed or attic and install them for the season. Put Up some clear plastic for just a few dollars; pick up a window insulation kit at your local hardware or discount store. Don't worry, properly installed, window plastic is essentially invisible. Adding a buffer against drafts and extra still air space can give a nice boost to your home's ability to hold heat.

Winterize Your A/C and Water Lines

This one's really easy, and it will even save you a few pennies next summer: Simply drain any hoses and air conditioner pipes, and make sure you don't have excess water pooled in equipment. If your A/C has a water shutoff valve, go ahead and turn that off.

Similarly, make sure any hoses are drained and stored away neatly. Turn off exterior water faucets. It's also a good idea to seal any water leaks around the place -- and don't forget to remove any window A/C units and store them so you don't invite cold drafts all winter.

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