Consumer Reports offers money-saving fall to-do list

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We all know its easier to do your winter preps around the house before it gets cold outside and the snow begins to fall.

Consumer Reports has come up with a list of chores that could save you money in the long run.

Up first, use your lawn mower's mulch setting to get rid of those leaves that fall on the ground. Ground-up leaves feed your lawn and save money. Consumer Reports says you might need to make a few passes to slice the leaves into small enough pieces to decay. You won't have to buy leaf bags and you don't have to rake.

Check your roof. You know that a leak can lead to expensive repairs. So, use binoculars to spot cracked, curled, or missing shingles safely from the ground. Consider having a roofing pro check flashing around chimneys, skylights, and roof valleys for leaks, and the rubber boots near vents for cracks that can let moisture seep in.

You should also clear your gutters, and think about installing a gutter-guard system to keep debris out of your gutters and to let the water flow out. Water that gets stuck in your gutters can force snow and ice into roof shingles, causing damage and leaks.

Close your hoses... Pipes can burst when water inside expands as it freezes, creating an expensive mess in your home.Shut off inside valves that control water flow to hose spigots. Then briefly open the spigots to drain any leftover water in pipes and hoses. Also drain water from supply lines for water sprinklers and pools, and shut off inside valves that control them. And help prevent freezing by insulating pipes in unheated areas.

More savings ideas

You can also save money by programming your thermostat to lower temperatures while you're asleep or while you're at work. Lower temperatures manually on any thermostat or install a programmable thermostat (about $40 to $300) to do it for you. Setting temperatures back can save you up to $100 per year, based on average heating costs.

Look for air leaks in your home's walls, windows, and ductwork. For this job, Consumer Reports says duct insulating and sealing are best left to a professional. But you can use a combination of caulk, foam board, expandable sealant, and weather stripping to plug leaks around windows, doors, electrical outlets, and other openings in your home. The magazine says plugging leaks could lower your annual heating and cooling bills by $400.

Also, don't forget to replace your furnace filters. A dirty filter reduces heat and airflow, which can lead to expensive repairs.Check the air filter in the furnace or heat pump each month. And have a pro check the system annually (about $120), tightening electrical connections, lubricating moving parts, and checking drains, controls, and connections for oil and gas systems.

Finally, clean your chimney and have it inspected. The magazine says you should pay roughly $150 to $300 for an inspection and a sweep. Go to for industry-certified chimney sweeps and check for complaints.

Click here to read more on Consumer Reports.

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