Home improvement expert Danny Lipford provides some easy ways to prepare your home for winter.

Whether you live in Alabama or Alaska, it’s important to make sure your house is ready for the big chill ahead by checking these home winterizing projects off your to-do list. Not only will your house stay warmer, you’ll save energy and lower your heating bill.

Add attic insulation

Since heat rises, if you don’t have enough insulation in your attic, your hard-earned energy dollars could literally be going through the roof. Start by checking to be sure the entire attic over the heated area of your house is insulated (you don’t need to insulate over an unheated garage or porch). Next, measure the thickness of the insulation in your attic. Depending where you live (colder climates need more attic insulation) and the type of insulation, your attic should have 12 to 18 inches of insulation (R30 to R60). If your attic is in need of more insulation, you can install unfaced rolls or batts over the existing insulation, or rent an insulation blower to spread loose-fill insulation into the attic. Be sure to wear a dust mask (rated N95 or higher), gloves and protective clothing when working with insulation.

Insulate attic access

Another often overlooked way for heat to escape in winter is through your attic access hatch or pull-down attic stairs. Start by applying self-adhesive foam Weatherstripping around the opening to seal any air leaks. Next, use construction adhesive to attach insulation to the attic side of an access hatch, or install an insulated attic cover (available at home centers) in the attic over pull-down stairs. You can also make your own attic stair cover by cutting sheets of foam board to form a box with a hinged top over the attic stairs. Use metal foil duct tape to hold the box sides and top together and to attach the box to the attic floor.

Inspect furnace

Since your furnace is key to keeping your house warm in winter, it’s important to have it serviced each year by a heating professional before cold weather hits to make sure it’s working properly. You, or your heating pro, should also turn the furnace blower on and inspect the ductwork for leaks. Seal any leaks you find with foil duct tape, followed by a generous coating of duct mastic (sealant). Repair any torn or damaged duct insulation with foil duct tape and foil backed duct insulation. Finally, replace the air filter on your heating system regularly (every one to two months in cold weather) with a quality air filter to keep the air in your house clean and your furnace running efficiently.

Seal up cracks

If you add up all the cracks and gaps found on most homes, the air leakage could be as much as leaving a window open all winter long. To make it easy to find air leaks in your home, close all the doors and windows, then turn on the range hood and bathroom vent fans. Light a stick of incense and pass it slowly around the edges of doors and windows while watching for movement in the smoke. Mark any air leaks you find, and repair or replace the defective weatherstripping and door thresholds to plug the leaks. Electrical outlets and wall switches on exterior walls are another common source of air infiltration. Start by turning off the power at the circuit breaker, remove the outlet or switch covers, and install precut foam gaskets. Screw the cover plates back on, turn on the power, and you’re good to go. Next, examine the outside walls of your home for any cracks or gaps, and fill them with a quality exterior caulk. For wider cracks fill the opening with appropriately sized foam backer rod, and apply a thin layer of caulk over it. Larger holes and gaps can be filled using expanding foam in a spray can. Don’t fill weep holes (small openings in the mortar) found near the bottom of brick walls, as they allow any moisture trapped behind the wall to escape.

Danny Lipford is a 36-year veteran remodeling contractor and media personality known to audiences as host of the Emmy-nominated and nationally-syndicated home improvement TV show and nationally-syndicated radio show: Today’s Homeowner with Danny Lipford. Danny served as the home improvement expert for CBS’s The Early Show and The Weather Channel for more than a decade. To learn more about Danny and his Today’s Homeowner brand, visit todayshomeowner.com.