Bianca Marijan
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Tips to Prepare Your Home for Winter and Save Money

As the winter months drone on, you wake up daily to a chilly predicament. And constantly revving up the thermostat is only making your energy bill noticeably higher each month. It's safe to say that winter's harsh elements brutally impact your home, your comfort and your wallet.

But simple ways exist to address, and fix, this problem. In fewer days than a weekend, you can enact strategic measures to combat cold floors, wasted energy and higher bills. So this year, be prepared to winterize your house using these easy steps.

Inspect your roof and gutters

When you winterize your house, why not start at the top? Since your roof stands sentry over your entire home, it needs to stay in tip-top shape. Climb on up and give it a thorough inspection. Chiefly, youíre looking for missing shingles, bare spots and holes. Any of these three (or combinations thereof) allows heat to escape and water to seep in, both of which are twice as troublesome during the cold months. Fix any problems immediately; you can do it yourself or call in a professional.

And while youíre up there, go ahead and clean out the gutters. Debris-filled gutters cause water to flood back onto the roof. Using a broom and makeshift snaking apparatus, remove dead leaves. You should then rinse out the downspouts, making sure they still carry water away from your foundation.

Add insulation

Adding adequate insulation while you winterize your house remains the best way to keep heat under the roof. Thus, when tackling this issue, the attic is the best place to start. Heat's most basic principle comes into play here: It always rises, and you can rest assured that warm air easily permeates a poorly insulated attic. The idea is simple, really, and so is the adequate-insulation test: If you can see ceiling joists, you need to add a layer of insulation. While the payoff of proper insulation is huge, so is the payout for having it installed. Installing insulation is usually best left to the professionals, which can get pricey. But again, the rewards are always worth the investment. And if youíre feeling overly ambitious, you can also have insulation added to crawl spaces and basement walls for super protection that is sure to winterize your home to perfection.

Service your heating unit

Before finally switching the thermostat to heat, invite a professional out to inspect your heating unit -- be it gas or electric. A tune-up of your heating/cooling system ensures that itís running properly, leading to a more efficient and longer-running unit. And what man alive doesnít want that? In addition, you should also make it a monthly priority to clean your air filter (and ductwork when necessary). Dirty filters block airflow and cause the system to work harder, which only means more money added to your energy bill and fewer years left on your system. Just think of this as a money-saving obligation and make cleaning the filter a chore that corresponds with paying your monthly bills.

Check windows and doors

Most time-consuming of all while you winterize your house is testing windows and doors for leaks. Thorough investigators use incense, but the feel test works just as well. Drafty doors get weather stripping; leaky windows need caulking. If you can afford it, replace windows with new energy-efficient models that are available. But if thatís not in your budget -- and itís probably not -- try less-expensive options like window-insulation kits. These simple solutions are available in most home-improvement stores for about $3 per window and provide clear-sheeting covers that reduce air infiltration up to 90%. Also, storm windows can reduce heat lost by 25% to 50%. Conversely, you should remove window screens; they block natural light that can supply a source of natural heat.

Keep the heat in with a few more tips to winterize your house

Blanket the water heater

These days, you can purchase a blanket designed especially for water heaters. These blankets insulate the unit, ensuring it runs more efficiently. Hey, $15 isnít too much to spend on an appliance that accounts for 14% of your utility bill, and you can pick this baby up at any hardware or home-improvement store.

Monitor your thermostat

Keep a steady watch over your thermostat and donít fall for myths. For years, people have maintained that a set thermostat ensures both a constant temperature and a constant cost, but thatís just a rumor. This year when you winterize your house, heat your home by the all-important ďtriple 8sĒ equation: Decrease the thermostat by 8 degrees for 8 hours each day and reduce costs by 8%. Another thrifty alternative is to invest in a set-back thermostat -- a programmable thermostat that automatically sets back the thermostat when you forget. Itís a good idea if youíre forgetful, but a costly alternative to simply amending your morning routine. Digital thermostats are also more cost- and energy-efficient, so if you're still stuck in the analog ages, you may want to consider an upgrade to save some cash.

Live strategically

Last but not least, winterizing your house comes down to simple strategies: Always keep air vents unobstructed so air flows more fluidly throughout the house; ceiling fans should run clockwise on low, so they push warm air off the ceiling and out into the room; and open your blinds daily so that natural light can provide additional heat throughout the house. Another great alternate-heating option is cooking more at home. The oven and stove both produce heat that will increase overall warmth. Finally, dress appropriately for the season so you donít have to keep the house warmer to accommodate lounging around in your shorts and T-shirt.

warm it up

A cold house blows. So each fall, use the strategic measures above to get your home -- and yourself -- ready for the winter months. After all, a properly prepared house during winter will mean a lot of things: comfortable living, eco-friendly peace of mind and, best of all, lower bills.

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