This time of the year, most of us do some basic home maintenance chores to prepare for winter, but taking time to do a thorough job can reduce your energy costs by up to 30 percent, not to mention make your home feel warmer. It also will improve safety and help prevent frozen pipes.

Air Leaks

Heating accounts for 45 percent of your energy bill, on average, according to the U.S. Department of Energy. That’s why it’s wise to either hire a professional or undertake a DIY energy audit to find and seal air leaks, a process which is detailed in the EPA’s free guide.

The guide explains how to look for leaks at baseboards, the edges of flooring, plumbing fixtures, switches, electrical outlets and dryer vents. Then, once found, caulk around the opening to seal gaps.

Pay particular attention to doors and windows, as one-quarter of your home’s heat loss typically happens here. Add weather-stripping and caulk as necessary. If your home has single-pane windows, consider installing storm windows, which can reduce winter heat loss by 50 percent.

Also inspect attic insulation. “If your insulation is just level with or below your floor joists (i.e., you can easily see your joists), you should add more,” advises the EPA. This also matters because inadequate attic insulation can cause ice dams on the roof.

Furnace and Fireplace

You should get your heating system inspected and serviced in the fall. This will help prolong the system’s life, save energy and reduce safety risks. In addition to the yearly servicing, inspect your furnace filters monthly and replace as necessary, advises the EPA.

Fireplaces cause about 22,000 fires in the U.S. every year, says the Consumer Product Safety Commission. If you have one, be sure to hire a professional sweeper to inspect the chimney either in spring or fall, and apply these additional fireplace safety tips.

Exposed Pipes

Our related article explains how to protect outdoor spigots. Inside the home, look for exposed pipes in unheated areas like the garage, beneath kitchen and bathroom cabinets, and in crawl spaces, furnace rooms and attics. The American Red Cross advises homeowners to insulate these with a pipe sleeve, newspaper or UL certified heat tape/cable.

All in all, taking time to complete this maintenance will set you up for a safer, more energy-efficient house.

While maintenance is on your mind, be sure to go through this outdoor list too.