This post originally appeared on All You.
The cold can wreak havoc on your home. These simple projects not only can keep it running smoothly; they can pay for themselves—and then some.
1. Close Storm Windows
Make sure every last one is shut tight and you could save as much as 10 percent in heating costs. For standard up-and-down sliding storms, check all four corners to see that they are engaged in the tracks, with the outer storm pressed as high as it will go and the inner storm at the very bottom of the track.
2. Protect Your Pipes
Before the first frost, remove your garden hose from the spigot, then find and close its shutoff valve (usually located in the basement or garage). Now open the outside spigot to allow it to drain completely, and leave it open until spring.
3. Stop the Draft
Ever notice that drafts tend to emanate from wall outlets and switches? That's because there's little or no insulation behind the electrical boxes that hold the wiring. Solution: Remove the screws and the cover plate, add an insulated gasket (a foam liner that costs about 10 cents at energyfederation.org), then reattach the plate. Doing that throughout the house can knock $20 to $30 dollars per year off of your utility bills.
4. Fill in the Cracks
That space where the baseboard meets the floor can be closed invisibly with a sealant. Use latex-based product in a color that matches your trim. The potential rewards are twofold: reducing drafts and cutting your energy bills by as much as $30 per year.
5. Check for Gaps
Fill holes, cracks and voids in your attic floor and basement ceiling wth insulating foam such as Great Stuff Big Gap filler ($5 per can at home centers). It expands dramatically, so spray a little at a time. You can save up to $200 a year in energy costs.
6. Clean the Chimney
Ask a certfied chimney sweep (find one on csia.org) to check your fireplace and flues (the exhaust channels inside the chimney). If necessary, the professional will clean them- a $100 to $300 job that's worth every penny, because soot and debris could cause a chimney fire or allow deadly carbon monoxide to back up into your home.
7. Prepare Yard Equipment for the Off-Season
Pour Sta-Bil (one $7 bottle can last for years) into the gas tank of power equipment you won't be using this winter, then run the machine for a few minutes. That prevents stale fuel from gumming up the works, so your mower will start easily come spring.
8. Install an Attic Hatch Cover
Your attic floor is insulated, but what about the pull-down ladder, which is basically a hole in that insulation? Consider an insulated cover. The Best stair-cover kit ($130; batticdoor.com) comes in three standard sizes. It's pricey, but you likely can recoup the cost in a single winter.
9. Pad Window Air Conditioners
If you can't remove your window unit, pick up a quilted cover that fits snugly over the interior face. Websites such as breezeblocker.net offer numerous sizes, typically for about $30 to $40.
10. Tune Up Your Furnace and Water Heater
Regular maintenance can make the systems more efficient. Annual service costs $100 to $200 for each, but you can save 5 percent in heating fuel (more if its been awhile since a tune up)- and prolong the life of you equipment, too.
11. Insulate Basement Pipes
Wrapping hot water pipes- found in basements or crawl spaces- with insulation can trim energy costs by as much as $15 a year (and make the day's first shower heat up quicker, too!).
12. Clear Ice Off Your Eaves
Heavy snow can lead to ice dams in gutters, causing water to back up beneath shingles and into your house. Average cost to repair? More than $5,000. Hire an expert (expect to pay $500) to chop out channels in the ice so runoff can safely drain away.
13. Prune Before Snowstorm Season
Now's the time to hire an arborist to check your trees, because heavy snowfall can bring down limbs- even entire trees! -if they are unhealthy or damaged. Don't worry: Pros can spot problems even after the leaves have fallen. In fact, it's better to do the job after the ground is frozen, because it's well protected from the weight of dropped logs and your contractor's heavy truck.
14. Tie Up Evergreens
Bushes can become permanently misshapen under the weight of snow and ice. Tie up evergreen shrubs with multiple stems- those without a thick central trunk -by gathering neighboring stems together with a flexible plastic tie such as a chain lock (about $20 at home centers).