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BBB advice on keeping out the cold

Adding insulatiis one best ways cut down home heating costs.  | Sun-Times Medifile

Adding insulation is one of the best ways to cut down on home heating costs. | Sun-Times Media file

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Updated: February 4, 2014 6:13AM

The Better Business Bureau has some ways for homeowners to safely winterize their homes and save money in the process.

“High heating costs are a problem each winter when money is tight,” said Steve Bernas, president and CEO of the Better Business Bureau serving Chicago and northern Illinois. “Winterizing a home is economical because a small up-front investment is worthwhile for months. It increases the energy efficiency of a house and lowers overall heating costs.”

According to the Energy Information Administration, more than 90 percent of the 116 million homes in the United States are expected to have higher heating costs than the previous winter.

Fortunately, homeowners can reduce some of the costs by winterizing their home, according to a release from the BBB. The agency offers the following tips for winterizing homes:

Caulking and weather stripping. To prevent air leaks, homeowners should inspect the caulking around windows and doors to check for cracking and peeling. In addition, ensure that doors and windows are shut tightly and no cold air is coming in due to worn-down weather stripping.

Ceiling fans. Reversing the direction of a ceiling fan, so the blades turn clockwise, will push warm air down and around the room.

Furnace. Furnaces older than 15 years might be due for a replacement. For newer furnaces, make sure the filter is clean and the thermostat is working properly.

Heating ducts. Ducts should be cleaned once every two years. Homeowners also should consider adding insulation to any exposed ductwork in order to prevent losing heated air.

Emergency kit. When a winter storm strikes, an emergency kit should have all essential materials in one handy place. An emergency kit should include flashlights, candles and matches, a first aid kit, bottled water, non-perishable food and a battery-powered radio. Create the same emergency kit for the car as well, including a couple blankets.

Smoke alarm and carbon monoxide detectors. Test smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors and install fresh batteries. Homeowners should consider replacing smoke alarms older than 10 years.

Gutters and ridge vents. Gutters should be cleaned to prevent any clogs that would cause rainwater to back up and freeze, making the gutters expand and crack. The ridge vents need to be cleaned as well in order to help prevent stagnate air.

Windows. Window screens should be taken down and replaced with storm windows; they provide an extra layer of protection and keep the house warmer. Investing in a window insulator kit is an inexpensive option to keep out drafts.

For free referrals on home maintenance this winter, visit BBB online at

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