Maintain your furnace. The single best step a homeowner can take to maintain heating system efficiency is to change your furnace filter regularly. You also should have an HVAC service provider check your furnace, give it a tune up and make sure it is in top working order.
If you have a wood-burning fireplace, stock up on logs, but make sure they're hardwood and well seasoned before burning. Store them in a dry place but far enough away from your house that they don't attract termites. Also check your fireplace damper. Make sure it is closed when not in use to avoid drafts.
Check your ducts. To increase your heater's efficiency, check all the ducts in your heating system and cover any leaks in the system with metal-backed tape. It reflects heat better than duct tape. While you're at it, find any exposed pipes and wrap them in insulation. This will help keep them from freezing.
Walk the perimeter. Before the onset of winter, inspect the outside of your house and make sure you have all the little cracks sealed. Be alert to any cracks or holes around the foundation of your house, which can also invite in insects and mice as they seek shelter from the cold.
Clean your gutters. Even if you already cleaned the gutters during the fall, check the top of each downspout to be sure it hasn't collected more debris before winter weather begins. If they are not properly cleared, winter precipitation can freeze, causing damage to your roof and other areas of your home.
Check your trees. Trim trees near your home so that limbs don't break under the weight of snow and fall on your house. Planting evergreens near your house also can help shelter it from cold winds.
Check alarms and detectors. Winter can be a dangerous time because many people keep their homes closed up tight while running furnaces or burning fires. Because of the potentially dangerous build-up of smoke and carbon monoxide, make sure you check your smoke detectors, carbon monoxide detectors, and fire extinguishers to ensure they are in working order.