With winter approaching, temperatures are going down and heating bills are going up. Heating and cooling account for about 56% of energy use in a typical American home, making it the largest energy expense for most homes, according to the U.S. Dept. of Energy. Many heat-saving tricks can also save cooling costs in the summer. And they help the environment in addition to helping your pocketbook.

To stop your money from flowing out your windows, under your doors and through your electric outlets, here are some great tips.

Pass your hand around windows and doors on a cold day to find cold spots. Other heat-loss suspects include window-mounted air-conditioning units, dryer vents, outdoor faucets, cable TV and phone lines, and electric and gas service lines.

On a cold windy day, turn on bathroom fans and stove vents and walk around the house holding a burning incense stick. Drafts will blow the smoke. Or turn off the lights at night and have a friend shine a flashlight around door and window edges and electric sockets; you can see light through larger cracks. Close a window or door on a piece of paper. If you can pull it out without tearing it, you’re losing heat.

Windows are heat losers
Close drapes and blinds at night. Open them during the day, especially for south-facing windows, to let the sun in. Heavy drapes can also help, and make sure your storm windows are closed. If you have older windows, replacing them with new energy-efficient ones is a large investment but worth the cost in the long run.

A cheaper, temporary alternative is to buy window insulator kits to cover the window with a sheet of clear plastic. Attach the plastic to the window frame with double-sided tape, then shrink-wrap it with a hair dryer.

Seal the air
Air sealing, done with caulking and weatherstripping, is one of the biggest energy efficiency improvements you can do. And it not only cuts heating costs, it also improves your home’s comfort and durability, according to the U.S. Department of Energy.

To judge how much weatherstripping you’ll need, measure the window and door frames and add 10% to 15%. Think about the location and expected wear and tear when picking the type of
weatherstripping. Felt and open-cell foams are less efficient and more visible but are cheaper and easy to apply, making them fine for low-traffic areas. Vinyl, though slightly more expensive, holds up well and resists moisture. Metals such as stainless steel or aluminum last longer and are affordable.

Caulk is usually sold in disposable cartridges and applied with a caulking gun, but you can also buy aerosol cans, squeeze tubes and ropes for easy application.

A draft dodger, a snake-like piece of cloth wrapped around sand and placed at the bottom of a door, will block the cold. The ones sold at stores may look like cute little animals, but a rolled up towel will also do. Unscrew outlet covers on outside walls and put foam gaskets on the outlets or reseal them with caulk.

Don’t let Santa in
Close your chimney flue damper if you have one. Or think about buying a new rubber damper for a tighter seal. Consider installing glass doors on the fireplace.