Before the heating season begins, have your furnace cleaned and filters replaced. Dirty filters restrict airflow and increase energy demand.

QUESTION: We bought our home last spring. This will be our first winter in the home. What should we do to get the house ready besides buy a snow shovel?

ANSWER: The recent Nor’easter reminds us all that winter is just around the corner. Winter can be tough on a home. Buying a sturdy snow shovel is a good start, but there are many other things you should be doing while the weather is still moderate. They will help keep you snug and warm this winter and can save you money.

Before the heating season begins, have your furnace cleaned and filters replaced. Dirty filters restrict airflow and increase energy demand. If your entire furnace is in need of replacement, putting in a modern, efficient burner will cost a lot upfront, but will save you every month during the heating season. Be sure to take advantage of any available tax credits for new furnaces.

Eliminate drafts. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, drafts can waste 5 to 30 percent of your energy use.

You can cut down on drafts though the use of simple “draft snakes” that you can make yourself to put at the bottom of doors or adding storm doors and energy efficient windows.

For the more expensive fixes, there may be tax credits available that can help mitigate the costs. If you cannot afford to put in new windows, you can pick up a window insulation kit for just a few dollars at your local hardware or discount store. Properly installed, window plastic is essentially invisible. Adding a buffer against drafts and giving a nice boost to your home's ability to hold heat.

Seal up gaps with caulking and weather stripping. Take a close look at the outside of your house where two different building materials meet, such as corners, around chimneys, and where pipes or wires exit along the foundation. If there are gaps, caulk or weather strip around these areas.

Insulate pipes. Insulating pipes can save on your hot water bill and also help decrease the chance of pipes freezing. Check to see if your pipes are warm to the touch. If so, they are good candidates for insulation. (Use the same method to determine if your hot water heater would benefit from some insulation.)

You can get pre-slit pipe foam at most hardware stores. Cut it to size and fasten in place with duct tape. Ideally, choose the insulation with the highest R-value practical, which is a measure of its heat-blocking power.

I’ll have some more winterization tips next week.

Linda Goodspeed is a longtime real estate writer and author of “In and out of Darkness.” Email her at: lrgoodspeed@comcast.net.