Each winter, consumers are looking for ways to save money on home heating and protect their homes during colder months. While the U.S. Department of Energy predicts we are likely to see lower heating bills this winter due to lower energy prices and warmer weather across the country, it's still important to take preventive winterizing steps. Better Business Bureau suggests ways for homeowners to safely winterize their homes and save money in the process.

If you aren't prepared for these wintry months ahead, you could pay the price. Luckily, homeowners can minimize energy and repair costs by winterizing their homes before the harshest weather takes hold.

BBB offers the following tips for winterizing homes:

Caulking and Weather Stripping. To prevent air leaks, homeowners should inspect the caulking around windows and doors to check for cracking and peeling. In addition, ensure that doors and windows are shut tightly and no cold air is coming in due to worn down weather stripping.

Ceiling fans. By reversing the direction of your ceiling fan so the blades turn clockwise, you push warm air down and force it around the room.

Heating ducts. Ducts should be cleaned once every two years. Homeowners also should consider adding insulation to any exposed ductwork to prevent losing heated air.

Air filters. Many of us fail to replace our air filters as often as we should. Remember, clean filters are a great way to reduce indoor air pollution when your home will have less natural ventilation during winter months.

Emergency kit. When a winter storm strikes, an emergency kit should have all essential materials in one handy place. An emergency kit should include flashlights, candles and matches, a first aid kit, bottled water, non-perishable food and a battery-powered radio. Create the same emergency kit for the car as well, including a couple blankets.

Smoke alarm and carbon monoxide detectors. Test smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors and install fresh batteries. Homeowners should consider replacing smoke alarms older than 10 years.

Gutters and ridge vents. Gutters should be cleaned to prevent any clogs that would cause rainwater to back up and freeze, making the gutters expand and crack. The ridge vents need to be cleaned as well in order to help prevent stagnate air.

Fireplace. According to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, approximately 27,000 house fires originate in poorly maintained chimneys or fireplaces each year, so consulting a professional chimney sweep is something every homeowner should consider. Not only will they clean the inside of the chimney which likely has soot, creosote, and debris build up, they will also take note of and repair structural damage.

Windows. Window screens should be taken down and replaced with storm windows; they provide an extra layer of protection and keep the house warmer. It's also a good idea to install storm windows in the attic to stop warm air from leaking through.Investing in a window insulator kit is an inexpensive option to keep out drafts.

For more tips on how to be a savvy consumer, go to bbb.org. To report fraudulent activity or unscrupulous business practices, please call the BBB Hotline: 903-581-8373.

 

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