DETROIT -

If the mild autumn has lulled you into a false sense of security, wake up! Another Michigan winter is around the corner, and you could be letting your money fly out the window -- literally. Plus, fall is the perfect season for you to tweak some things around the house to avoid some costly problems.

Monife Knuth is a busy mother of two boys. She loves her beautiful older home in Detroit's University District, but she knows older homes come with some challenges.

"Living in an older home like we do, you know, there's a lot of leaks. Like sometimes in the winter you can feel the wind moving back and forth," Knuth told Ruth to the Rescue.

Knuth's husband works to keep their home air tight, but they recently invited DTE Energy to do a home energy consultation.

Knuth found out her home wasn't as air tight as she thought. One way you can tell if there are leaks in your home is to look for spider webs.

"You have a lot of spider webs and that's one indication that you have a lot of air infiltration. Spiders are coming in through the gaps," said the DTE Energy consultant, as we worked his way through Knuth's basement.

The consultant also passed along the energy saving tips you may remember: caulking around windows, pipes and any other lines that come into the house. DTE will also change out old light bulbs in favor of the newer CFL models.

Water usage heats up your bill

DTE experts also look for ways to reduce your water bill. Using less water can cut your power bill when you take hot showers.

During the visit to Knuth's home, the consultant found a shower head that used 2.2 gallons of water per minute. He switched it with a shower head that uses 1.5 gallons of water per minute.

That's welcome news to Knuth, the mother of a young son who has discovered the joys of a long, hot shower.

"Being able to use less water with him taking a 25 minute shower, so he can dance in the rain, in the shower, really does help out a lot," said the proud mother.

Fall fixups help around the house

Another expert echoed some of the advice from DTE, and pointed out some of the other projects that might be tackled around the house to save you frustration and prevent big repair bills.

"It's like going to the doctor or the dentist," said financial expert Leah Ingram. "You think, well, I'm just going to push that off, but preventative maintenance, whether it's your body or your home, is going to pay off in the long run."

Some fall fixups to think about:

  1. Clean your gutters
  2. Winterize yard sprinklers
  3. Install weather stripping
  4. Service your furnace
  5. Rethink how often you use the fireplace. Heated air can travel out through the chimney, negating the impact of the heat from the fire.
  6. Use programmable thermostats

Tax credit alert

Also, if you're planning to upgrade your home's energy efficiency, now is a good time to make those changes. A $500 tax credit for energy efficient upgrades is set to expires at the end of the year. It was extended last year as part of the American Taxpayer Relief Act.

Keep in mind that claims are only accepted for your primary home and there are eligibility requirements based on when your previous claim was made.

Click here for more information from DTE about how to make your home more energy efficient and for energy-saving tips.