BBB’s money-saving tips on avoiding a chilly home this winter

Meteorologists are predicting that tonight will be the first official freeze of the season for Central Texas.

You probably already know to leave faucets dripping, cover certain plants and keep the heat running to avoid cracked pipes or other damage. However, after last year’s mild winter and this year’s long summer, you may not have thought about preparing your home for the entire winter season.

Analysts are predicting a harsher season this year. According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, average household spending for heating oil and natural gas could increase as much as 19 percent this winter compared to last.

In preparation, Better Business Bureau has a checklist to help consumers get their home ready for the colder months ahead, while also cutting back on unnecessary energy costs:

  • Furnace. Have your unit inspected to make sure it is in safe, working order. Additionally, check to see that the furnace filter is clean, the thermostat is working correctly and the pilot light is functioning.
  • Heating ducts. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, a home with central heating can lose up to 60 percent of its heated air before that air reaches the vents. This occurs if ductwork is not well-connected, improperly insulated or if air travels through unheated spaces.
  • Fireplace. Using your fireplace can keep you from running the heater as often, but make sure the flue is closed when it is not in use. This will keep cold drafts out of your home. If you notice a leak, have your chimney inspected or purchase a screen to cover your fireplace. You should have your chimney or wood stoves inspected annually.
  • Gutters and outside pipes. If freezing temperatures are expected, wrap outside pipes and clear your gutters to prevent possible cracking. Any clogs or excess water will expand as they freeze.
  • Caulking and weather stripping. Inspect the caulking and weather stripping around windows and doors for cracking and peeling. If you can feel air coming in, it also means heat could be getting out.