Even in sunny San Diego, California, the weather has taken a turn and is cooling off, and that means it's a good time to make sure that your home is energy-ready for winter.

Keeping utility costs down doesn't have to be a high-energy task, especially if you prepare for the cold weather. The Consumer Energy Center Organization offers numerous tips to prevent your heating dollars from being wasted.

Perhaps the biggest waste of energy is when heat escapes through leaks in windows, doors, fireplace dampers, ducts, wires, and pipes. A well-sealed home is an energy-efficient home that can save you as much as 10 to 15 percent on your heating bill. To make sure your home isn't losing heat through leaks, be sure to check the caulking and weather-stripping, and replace or repair it before you turn on the heater. Seal the holes around plumbing vents as they can cause a great deal of heat loss since they begin below the floor and extend upward through the roof.

Don't forget about attics and basements. These rooms can cause considerable heat loss. Energy is lost through even the tiniest cracks and crevices -- so make sure you seal them up! If you have pull-down stairs to the attic, make sure the door closes tightly.

Fireplaces are wonderful and bring in a lot of warmth when they're in use. However, when a fire isn't burning you'll want to make sure that your damper is closed -- otherwise a lot of heat escapes. You may want to purchase a special device for your fireplace that helps to seal out the cold air.

If you haven't already, it's time to get that annual check of your heating system. Some homeowners think that this isn't necessary because their heating system hasn't been used. But that is precisely why you should get an expert to check it out. A heating system that is functioning improperly may not safely heat your home. It can also cause your heating bill to skyrocket.

Replacing your furnace's filter monthly is a simple way to keep your heating system from getting overworked and using up extra energy. When you change the filter make sure that you also remove dust from vents or baseboard heaters.

If you have fans in your home make sure you switch the direction the blades turn. This is one that I often overlook, but when I remember to do this there is a noticeable difference in the air temperature. Especially in high-ceiling rooms, reversing the blade-direction movement helps to push the warm air that rises to the ceiling down into the rest of the room below, without also giving a cool breeze as the blades do when operating in the opposite direction.

If you're leaving your home early in the morning, despite the temptation to leave the heater running so that you'll have a cozy home when you return, turn down the thermostat before you head out. Even though the house may be cold when you come home, keep in mind that it takes less energy to warm a cool house than it does to maintain a warm temperature all day. This alone can reduce your heating costs by 20 to 75 percent.

Taking the time to effectively prepare your home for chilly weather can save you lots of money over the long winter season.

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