Monitor heating system

With winter temperatures plummeting in many areas of the country, it's important that homeowners prepare their homes accordingly. Staying warm is easier than it sounds, especially when increased heat use means higher utility bills.

Additionally, simply turning on your heater and letting it run for the duration of winter isn't a safe or financially sound strategy, and it may not be enough to keep you warm in the first place. It's best to take careful steps so you're not creating fire hazards or putting your family at risk of potential dangers.

Here are a few tips to stay warm this winter:

Set your thermostat
Rather than constantly hopping off the couch to adjust the heat every hour, simply find a suitable temperature and let your digital thermostat do the rest. It requires more energy to alter temperature controls as opposed to leaving them at one setting. If cold air comes in from outside, then the system will kick on and filter in warm air. Once the desired setting is reached, your heating system will work more efficiently to maintain that temperature. This approach will save money on monthly heating bills.

Cover holes and cracks
Your home heating strategy may be getting off on the wrong foot if your home isn't protected from heat leaks. The smallest hole or crack can let out hot air, thwarting your heating efforts. That's why it's crucial to seal cracks with caulk or apply weatherstripping around door and window frames to ensure no heat is escaping. Ideally, this should have been done before winter.

Cover windows and walls
Bare surfaces don't capture heat very much because there is little insulation. Hanging pictures, mirrors and other items on walls can retain heat much more efficiently, thus improving the warmth of your home. Further, curtains should be open during the day to allow sunlight indoors. Once darkness falls, however, make sure you close the curtains so that they can prevent the glass of the windows from allowing in cold air.

Be smart with candles and fireplaces
Fire in any capacity can be a hazard, particularly when small children and pets are in the house. A fireplace can create a warm setting in your living room, but if the chimney is clogged or sparks land on the carpet, a fire can ensue. In addition, keep all flammable materials away from candles and make sure a screen is in front of the fireplace. At night, make sure no flames are still burning before going to bed.

Check alarms
Because many homes are heated from natural gas, propane or oil, these energy sources can create harmful fumes inside of a home if there is a problem in the heating system. That's why it's vital that all fire and carbon monoxide alarms are fully functioning. These devices will alert your family in the event of a fire or gas leak, and could, ultimately, save lives.

Turn off unused items
Though it may be tempting to keep your heater operating on full blast at all times, it's better to turn most devices off, or on a low setting, if no one is home. This will prevent accidents while everyone is away and reduce your heating costs considerably. The same goes for any space or portable heaters, fireplaces and fans that ventilate air.

Staying warm and remaining safe should go hand in hand this winter. You can accomplish these goals by being proactive in regulating your home's heating system and keeping an eye on costs.

To protect your home from damage, make sure you have an updated home insurance policy at all times.

CoverHound can assist with online insurance quotes available in real time.

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