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Winter Prep Checklist: Stop Wasting Your Money On Lost Heat



snow covered house

As temperatures drop and days get shorter, you may be fearing the impending winter season based on last year’s unusually frigid weather. Luckily, a recent forecast from the NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) expects temperatures to be warmer this season compared to last winter. This piece of news doesn’t just mean you’ll save your fingers and toes from frostbite — you’ll also save yourself some money on your home energy bill. In fact, heating takes the biggest bite out of your monthly utilities, accounting for a whopping 43 percent of costs.

While Mother Nature is going easy on you this winter, it’s important to prep your home and ensure your heating system is functioning properly to avoid wasting money. Most homeowners can’t afford a complete overhaul of their HVAC system, but there are simple ways to make sure your system heats efficiently. Follow this checklist to prep for winter and save on those monthly bills.

The easiest way to maximize your heating system’s efficiency is to change your air filters every two months. Depending on the brand and model, this is a minimal cost ranging from $4 to $20. Set a reminder on your phone to complete this task regularly, as it often falls under the “out of sight, out of mind” category of oversight!

To heat your home, hot air generated by your HVAC system circulates through ducts to deliver comfortable temperatures in each room. However, according to the, 20 to 30 percent of the air that moves through the duct system is lost due to leaks. Ultimately, that lost air translates into lost dollars. Examine any exposed ducts in your attic, basement, and crawl spaces and plug up any leaks.

Windows and Doors
Doors and windows represent the biggest culprits for air leaks in your home, so check for drafts! And if you find any leaks, apply caulking between the frames and walls both inside and outside to prevent precious heat from escaping. If you’ve never caulked anything before, don’t be intimidated: it’s easy! Follow these helpful tips from

Most people don’t think to use their fans during the winter, but switching them to a clockwise rotation will blow warm air down to the floor. Heat rises, so this is an important step in keeping your home comfortable and maximizing the use of your heating system. Energy Star recommends keeping your ceiling fans on a low speed and adjusting your thermostat down to further save on energy costs.

Window Units
If you use an air conditioning window unit, it’s important to remove it before the winter to prevent drafts of cold air coming into your home. If moving your unit is too much work, you have other options like covering them with insulated liners. Ultimately, you don’t want any drafts that will let hot air escape or cold air enter.

If you don’t have a programmable thermostat, you’re likely wasting unnecessary energy and money to heat your home when no one is there. Using a programmable thermostat can save you up to $180 a year on your utility bill. Devices that contribute to the “smart home” trend are costlier than basic thermostats, but do allow maximum control via smartphone. If you’re in the market for one of these gadgets, look for coupons to offset your costs. For example, you can find coupons to Home Depot through sites like, or deals for a host of other home stores to help you save.

Professional Help
Some HVAC problems require the help of an expert who can review your system. Before you hire someone from the yellow pages, contact your energy company; many offer free home audits to help identify where your home is losing heat. If you do require professional assistance, be sure to get multiple bids and ask about any new customer offers or promotions.

Andrea Woroch is a money-saving expert who transforms everyday consumers into savvy shoppers by sharing smart spending tips and personal finance advice. As a sought-after media source, she's been featured among such top news outlets as Good Morning America, Today, CNN, Dr. OZ, New York Times, MONEY Magazine, Huffington Post, Forbes and more. For more info, visit or follow her on Twitter or Facebook for daily savings advice and tips.

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