1. Add Weather-Stripping
According to Aquila.com (a natural gas and electric service provider), "As much as 7-12 percent of a building's heating and cooling loss occurs around windows and doors, so weather-stripping is an important part of your energy-saving curriculum." When the cold wind blows, if you have gaps around your doors and windows, your heating bill suffers. Adding weather-stripping is a quick, cheap, and effective way to both make your home more comfortable and to reduce heating costs. You can often find do-it-yourself kits at your local hardware store or home improvement center, or you can have your weather-stripping professionally installed for less than $300 on average.
2. Replace or Clean Your Furnace Filter
A dirty filter makes it harder for your furnace to do its job, and passes on the cost to YOU in the form of premature repair costs. However, for a very low investment, you can purchase and install a brand-spanking new filter! Furnace filters start at about $1.50, and most say that they should be replaced (or for reusable filters, cleaned) once a month for best results.
3. Install Curtains
Curtains don't just look nice, they can actually make your home more efficient. On Cornell University's Cooperative Extension website, we find this energy saving tip: "Open curtains and/or shades of east, south, and west-facing windows on sunny days to let the sun heat your home. Close them at night. Keep draperies closed all day on north facing windows." Closed curtains make an impact when it comes to heat transfer by creating a barrier of air between the glass and your living space, which will make the room they are in more comfortable, and can have an effect on your heating costs, too.
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4. Insulate Your Ductwork
Though this might sound like an unnecessary project, the U.S. Department of Energy's Consumer's Guide to Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy tells us that, "un-insulated or poorly insulated ducts in unconditioned spaces can lose through conduction 10%-30% of the energy used to heat and cool your home." This is more than enough energy loss to warrant duct insulation before the winter hits!
5. Inspection, Inspection, Inspection
"According to the American Society of Home Inspectors (ASHI), a pre-winter review of a home can help reduce energy costs and prevent a number of weather-related problems before they start."
Though getting an inspection will not, in itself, fix any problems, getting small problems identified before they become larger ones can be extremely beneficial. Heating systems, roofing, and foundations can all be inspected at any time of year, but problems in these areas that go unchecked through winter can lead to some serious repair costs once the weather gets warmer (if they hold out that long). Since winter weather poses the biggest challenge to these areas, it stands to reason that a pre-winter inspection is one precaution that is well worth the investment.