11/02/2008 05:12 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

Winterize Your House to Save Energy

The simplest alternative energy source to tap in your home is energy saved. By taking a few steps towards increasing your energy efficiency, you can significantly reduce both your energy bills and your household's carbon footprint.

Thomas Friedman wrote in the New York Times that a renewed focus on saving energy is the ultimate energy paradigm shift. He quotes Jim Rogers, the chairman and chief executive of Duke Energy:

"Energy efficiency is the 'fifth fuel' -- after coal, gas, renewables and nuclear," said Mr. Rogers. "Today, it is the lowest-cost alternative and is emissions-free. It should be our first choice in meeting our growing demand for electricity, as well as in solving the climate challenge."

So, just as reusing is more efficient than recycling (if less glamorous), conservation of energy should be a top priority as energy unspent is the cleanest possible alternative to fossil fuels burnt. Taking a few key steps to winterize your house can dramatically reduce your energy consumption once the chill sets in.

Lloyd Alter offers a top-down check list on Planet Green:

1. Roof: Check roof and around vents, skylights and chimneys for leaks. Repair as necessary.

2. Gutters: Clean gutters and drain pipes so leaves won't clog them and be sure they drain away from the house. Drain outdoor faucets.

3. Fireplace: Clean fireplace of ashes. Check chimney for loose or missing mortar. Have chimney professionally cleaned. Make sure damper closes tightly.

Visit Planet Green to check out several more practical tips.

Greenthinkers suggests a few more commonsensical ideas:

4. Insulation Inspection: Since warm air rises, it's super important to insulate your attic.

5. Stop Inside Leaks: It's time to seal up the inside of the home. Cracks around windows, on perimeter walls and around electrical outlets on exterior walls can lose a lot of warm air.

Even if you have a limited amount of time or money to spend on winterizing, a few super quick tricks can have a serious impact.

6. Keep your Boiler Toasty: Simply wrapping a water heater blanket around your water heater can save energy.

7. Leave the blinds open in rooms that get a lot of sun.

8. Jeff McIntire-Strasburg of Sustainablog suggests getting a heating system check-up. This preventative step is a worth-while precaution as "dirt and neglect are the top two causes of system failure."

So the idea is really to keep your appliances in good working order and try to seal the warm air in and keep the cold and damp at bay. The alternative is like drinking hot chocolate from a cracked mug: a mess.