Anxiety about blackouts and lowering electrical cost hits its apex during hot weather, when air conditioner use is high and tactics for reducing energy are obvious. Conserving power and reducing costs can, however, be achieved all year long. Make sure your household winterizing plans include these cost-reduction strategies, so you stay warm, toasty and financially solvent when the snow starts to fly.

Have a Home Energy Audit – A professional home energy auditor can best determine where and how you are losing heat, but you can also perform a fairly diligent, DIY home-energy audit on your own. Inspect your house thoroughly, looking for air leaks and drafts. Check for baseboard gaps, cracked or open edges along window and door frames and other areas where air leakage might occur, such as wall-to-ceiling meeting points. Tightly seal any open areas you find with caulk, weather stripping or other insulating material. Check the outside of your house for vulnerable areas, such as the juncture points of differing types of building materials, foundation cracks or holes in the siding and mortar.

Do a Heating System Health Check – Hot water heaters, furnaces and boilers should be cleaned and checked once a month, to troubleshoot any potential problems and maintain maximum efficiency. Don’t skimp on professional servicing, which should be done once a year, particularly if you have older units. When it’s time to upgrade, opt for energy star appliances, to provide the minimum amount of energy expenditure possible. If your heating system is dependent on the grid, this is the time to consider benefiting from tax incentives and purchasing an at-home generator so you can override the power outages often caused by winter storms.

Insulate Everything – Your attic, basement and crawl spaces can be prime energy zappers if they are not insulated thoroughly. Particularly if you have an older home, check your attic hatch to assess if it is insulated at all and if there is a vapor barrier apparent underneath the attic’s insulating material. Electrical boxes and other leaky areas should be reinforced with caulk, but make sure there is proper ventilation in place by leaving the attic vents unblocked to allow for diminishment of indoor air pollution.

Program Your Thermostat – If you have a programmable thermostat, set it for a low, yet comfortable temperature during nighttime hours. This can save a significant amount of money off of your electrical bill. Some studies indicate that people sleep better, plus burn more calories in a cool room than a warm one, so increased health may be an added energy-saving plus to this simple step. You can also lower your thermostat during the day when no one is home, but make sure to keep it at a safe enough level for any pets who may be eagerly awaiting your return.

Let the Sun Shine – Winter’s sun may be pale, but that doesn’t mean you can’t benefit from the warmth of its rays. Open your window shades and let the sun pour in during daylight hours, particularly if you have a southern exposure. Sunlight will not only help to lower your heating bill, but can also boost mood and keep indoor plants nourished.

Sparkle Efficiently – You don’t have to forgo your sentimental decoration favorites, but energy-efficient lights and other illuminated ornaments are widely available for the holidays, which can greatly lower electrical output and up savings. Look for low LED jack-o-lanterns, Santas and string lights to reduce the cost of decorating your home from Halloween through to New Year’s Eve.

Corey Whelan is a freelance writer in New York. Her work can be found at Examiner.com.

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