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Wealth Column: Get prepared for winter with home energy audit

The days are getting shorter and many of us are eyeing our thermostat, ready to turn on the heat as soon as the temperature dips too low.

Just as quickly as summer turned to fall, sooner than we realize (or than some of us would like) winter will be on our doorstep, too. As we prepare for cooler days, longer nights and a change in the weather, we wanted to give you some advice on how to save money on energy costs, all while lowering your environmental impacts.

Take a Second Look at that Thermostat

If you live in a northern state during the winter months, it can be tempting to turn the heat up north of 75 degrees to stay warm inside, one of the quickest ways to reduce your energy bill is to turn that heat down just by a few degrees.

According to the U.S. Department of Energy, 48 percent of home energy consumption is on heating and cooling. To save some green this winter, consider lowering the temperature in your home by two or three degrees. By the Department of Energy's estimates, you can save up to 3 percent off your heating bill for every degree you drop the temperature. That means, you can save nearly 10 percent by lowering your home's temperature by just 3 degrees.

Replace lights with LEDs

It's common knowledge that LED lights save you on energy costs, but just how much would you get back for making the switch?

According to the Consumer Federation of America, if you have at least 20 light bulbs in use at home you could save $1,000 or more by utilizing LED light bulbs over 10 years. And yes, we understand that LED lights are a little pricier than the traditional incandescent or halogen lights, but at an average cost of $5 a piece for the energy-efficient versions, if you use that same 20 light bulbs we discussed earlier, you'll earn your money back within two years of use.

Double Check Your Home's Insulation

By making sure that your home is properly insulated in the winter months, you can help keep money from literally flying out the window. If you feel a draft of cool air when you're sitting by a window or door in your home, despite having the heat on, during the coldest time of the year, consider contacting your energy company for a home energy audit.

Take a look at the weather stripping around your doors and windows to make sure it's still in tact and not worn down due to weather or old age. If you realize it's time for repairs or replacement, the good news is it's generally an easy fix, making this a cost-friendly fix that could save you money this winter.

Whether you live in a state where winter means 40 degrees or wind chills of 40 below, we hope you can save a little more cash this winter with these winter energy audit tips.