December means one thing to home owners—frigid temperatures and high energy bills.

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However, a little proactive planning can really make a difference when it comes to protecting your home from the elements and saving money this winter. That’s why each and every December I consult my handy checklist for winterizing my home while the temperatures remain temperate and bright. This way, I’m able to take proactive measures to plug leaks and protect my pipes to keep the warm air in and more money in my bank account this holiday season.

Here are four quick and easy do-it-yourself home renovations to help you cut costs this winter.

1. Caulking & winter-stripping

To save money during the freezing days, the idea is to keep warm air inside and cold air out! However, that can be difficult if you have leaks in and around your windows and doors. If you do, you’ll find yourself cranking the heat in order to stay warm. The result: dangerously high energy bills! As a proactive measure, re-caulk damaged or cracked window sills, door frames, and electrical outlets. Also use inexpensive weather-stripping to seal the cold out and retain heat inside your home.

2. Program that thermostat

The thermostat doesn’t need to be cranked when you’re in a dead sleep—or worse—when you’re not even home. Instead, cut heating costs by giving your furnace a time out when you’re not at home. This will measure will not only extend the life of your furnace; it will also lower your heating bills a great deal when you set it to run lower when you’re not at home and about an hour before you go to bed. Don’t worry; you can program your thermostat so it kicks in again an hour before you wake up and an hour before you get home from work so things are nice and toasty.

3. Protect your exterior plumbing

One of the most costly winter home catastrophes is burst pipes. However, you can take steps to proactively protect your exterior pipes from bursting too—just by simply shutting off the main exterior water source, emptying all water from pipes (so they don’t freeze and crack) and if necessary, wrapping any pipes leading out of your home in rags or plastic to protect them from freezing and cracking.

4. Swap that dirty furnace filter

A final inexpensive way to save energy and a lot of dough this winter is to change your furnace filter. This will ensure your heating and air conditioning system run smoothly all year round. It will also save you money if your system is running at prime efficiency with no dirt or debris in the way. A new furnace filter will also protect your home and loved ones against the risk of a fire. So you can stay warm knowing that your furnace is running optimally.

Tina is a registered nurse and DIY home improvement maven who has written and blogger for DIY Mother as well as numerous print and online publications ranging in topics from education to health and from home renovations to interior decorating.

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