4 Winterizing Tips for Your Home

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Heating and cooling costs typically make up around 48% of your utility bill, according to energy.gov. A big chunk of that money can get sucked right out the window, or a roof, or even cracks in your walls – if you don't take a few easy precautions. Here are four tips to seal the money leaks.

1. Find the Leaks 
Leaks can show up around obvious places like windows, doors, mail chutes, vents or window air conditioning units. But places you might not think to look––like around plumbing and electrical lines––can also cause money-draining leaks. Anywhere someone had to drill a hole in a wall could create a leak.

Luckily, figuring out where air escapes from your home is easier than you think. It doesn't require any equipment fancier than a flashlight or a fan. Wait until nighttime, then shine a flashlight on a suspected leak source. If the person on the other side can see a ray of light, there's a leak. Same with a hand-held fan. Hold it up to the suspect area, and if the person on the other side can feel the air blowing through, you've got a leak.

2. Block 'em 
After you've identified the leaks, you've got easy, inexpensive work to do that can save you a lot of money this winter. The most obvious leaks may be coming from under a door, which you can fix in a jiffy with a door sweep.

Next, take into account the climate you live in. Winterizing materials like weather-stripping and caulk should be appropriate for the severity of your region's winters. Weather-stripping is ideal for moveable parts like doors and windows, and is easily applied. Caulking any leaks that can't be plugged with weather-stripping is a bit trickier to apply. It's easiest with an automatic-release caulking gun that limits the amount of caulk released, followed by work with a putty knife. The Insurance Institute for Business and Home Safety (IIBHS) has good information on installing weather-stripping and caulking.

3. Keep Things Tidy Outdoors 
If the snow and ice in your gutters can't flow freely because they are blocked by dead leaves and debris, you’ve got a problem. Melted ice and snow can seep into your walls and drip from your ceiling or into your interior walls. The water can damage walls and floors, and depending on the severity of the leak, you could face serious structural issues. Imagine the flooring that holds up your first floor fireplace is full of holes caused by water damage. Suddenly you're facing a costly repair that may have been avoided with proper roof and gutter maintenance.

Heavy snows can also cause brittle tree branches to crack, damaging your home or even injuring people coming up your walkway. Regularly trim trees near your home to help prevent major problems.

4. Let Your Thermostat do the Thinking 
Programmable thermostats can save you big bucks. Program your thermostat lower when you're at work or away, and higher when you get home. It's easy to forget to do this yourself, so let your thermostat do it.