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Simple Steps to Save on Energy Bills This Winter

Fall isn't far off, so it's time to start getting your home ready for the colder weather - and to help your bottom line.

On "The Early Show" Tuesday, Matt Blashaw, host of the DIY Network's "Money Hunters" and a licensed contractor, described easy, affordable projects to do soon to save big bucks on your energy bills this winter. These fixes would help keep cold air out and warm air in.

THERMAL LEAK DETECTORS

Homes leak air; we all know that. This device helps find where the cold air is coming in so you can hone in on that particular area when it's time to insulate.

Blocking that air flow is one of the best ways to keep warm air in and cold weather out.

The device is easy to use. Just point the infrared heat leak detector around drafty areas, such as a window, and it will tell you if hot or cold air is coming through, showing red for warm and blue for cold.

The high-tech gadget can detect leaks anywhere inside or outside your home.

Infrared heat leak detectors can be found for $50 or so, sometimes, even less. Shop around on the Internet for the lowest price.

IF YOU DETECT A LEAK AROUND A WINDOW, TO KEEP THAT COLD AIR FROM GETTING IN:

You need to weatherize your windows and doors. Sealing leaks around windows and doors can save you up to 20 percent on energy bills each year.

If the infrared heat leak detector tells you that you have a leak, fixing it is an easy and inexpensive DIY project.

Caulking and weather-stripping can seal up windows. You can use interior and exterior caulk in a gun or tube.

There's also weather stripping: You can find stripping that's just peel and stick.

The caulk and weather-stripping usually sell for less than $10.

ANOTHER PROBLEM AREA FOR DRAFTS AND AIR LEAKS IS DOORS. SO YOU NEED TO WEATHERIZE ALL THE DOORWAYS, TOO:

Here's an easy fix: Add a threshold. You can cut to size with a saw. Then slide onto the bottom of your door. You can also use weather stripping around your doors.

You can buy for as little as $10.

SMALLER GAPS IN AND OUTSIDE OF YOUR HOME, BUT THEY CAN ROB YOU OF ENERGY SAVINGS, TOO:

Say you have pipes running from the exterior to the interior of your house. Frequently, there are small cracks between the pipes and the wall. Sure, it's a small crack, but if you have them all over your home, it adds up to one big crack.

Matt likes a low-expansion spray foam insulation and comes in a can for this project. It can fill cracks and gaps areas that need less than one inch of insulation. And it's very easy to apply: Just spray and it will fill in seconds.

You can buy expanding foam sealer at hardware stores for less than $5. You could get Minimal Expanding Foam at GreatStuffDow.com.

PUT GASKETS BEHIND OUTLETS AND SWITCH PLATES:

Install fire-resistant foam gaskets/sealers behind outlet and switch plates.

Just remove the plate. Take the foam pre-cut punch out and push onto the prongs of the outlet cap. Install behind the faceplate. Put your plate back on.

The sealers are completely invisible from the outside.

You can usually buy outlet and light switch sealers for less than $5 a bag, at sites such as OutletSealers.com

A GREAT WAY TO SAVE MONEY ON YOUR MONTHLY HEATING BILL IS TO INSTALL A PROGRAMMABLE THERMOSTAT:

Programmable thermostats only cost about $40 and they offer of the very best ways to lower you electric bill.

They are easy to install: Shut off your electrical supply, remove the old thermostat, then attach the four wires to your new, programmable thermostat. The wires are color-coded, so it's easy to see what goes where.

One problem with programmable thermostats, though, is that many homeowners don't set them properly.

That's an easy fix: In the winter, program the thermostat so the house is cooler when no one is home in the daytime and when everyone is in bed at night. During warmer weather, set the temperatures higher during the day and cooler at night.

A programmable thermostat can save around $180 every year in energy costs. They're available, maong other places, at Lowes.