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RISMEDIA, December 11, 2010—(MCT)—We’ve all heard that “winterizing” our homes will help keep utility costs down and is easier on the environment. If you are looking for some simple ways to keep your home warm this winter, while keeping money in your wallet, the following options can be put to use in your home today.

One of the simplest ways to keep warm air moving inside your home is to reverse the direction of your ceiling fans. In the colder months, fan blades should turn in a clockwise direction to force warmer air collecting at the ceiling down toward the floor. If you feel a breeze pushing down on you when standing directly under the fan, the blades are turning in the wrong direction.

Another smart place to check for leaks is in your attic. First, make sure the attic door itself is insulated and seals when shut. As for the actual attic space, if you can see the ceiling joists, you probably need more insulation. And, if your fireplace is more ornamental rather than functional, use a chimney plug to prevent warm air from escaping.

Windows and doors are the biggest places where warm air escapes. Use a match or lit candle to search for leaks. If the flame blows out when held next to windowsills or doorframes—there’s a problem. While replacing windows and doors with efficient new ones is your best option in this scenario, it is also costly.

One alternative is to put up insulating storm windows and doors. You can also use window insulating kits or heavy drapery to help keep winter drafts from entering your home through windows. And, weather-stripping is an inexpensive solution for filling gaps in doorframes. For high traffic areas, rubber weather-stripping is your best bet because it is more durable than the foam variety.

Don’t forget to keep up with the maintenance of central heating units. Furnaces should be checked each year to make sure they are operating at maximum efficiency and with clean filters. A clogged filter makes the unit work harder, costing more to operate and creating a fire hazard. Another good idea is to check the ductwork in your home to make sure there aren’t any leaks. You can easily fix any that you find with metal-backed tape.

And finally, if your hot water heater is located in a cold garage or closet, invest in a water heater-insulating blanket. This keeps your unit from having to work harder than necessary to heat the water.

These do-it-yourself jobs can be as big or as little as you want and they all add up to energy and money savings. Do your part this winter to keep warm air inside your home and even more money in your pocket.

(c) 2010, The Charlotte Observer (Charlotte, N.C.).

Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.