Neglect is a top cause of heating system inefficiency and failure, according to ENERGYSTAR.gov. A tune-up is an inexpensive way to ensure heating equipment is operating properly, and provide peace of mind that no potentially harmful blockage exists in a flue or exhaust vent.

According to the home maintenance experts at HomeServe USA, a typical professional heating system tune-up will include:

Inspect safety features and controls Check thermostats (including adjustment if needed) Inspect burners (with adjustments if necessary) Check and clean the pilot light Check and clean the gauge Flush low-water cutoff Inspect filters, belts, oil motors, pumps and condensate line (if applicable) Check the flue pipe and chimney draft Inspect and clean the blower assembly 

—Brandpoint

Winterizing

Some of the best home winterization projects are also ones that will improve energy efficiency. Here are some recommended by Chris Williams, merchandising director at Lowe's.

Seal any cracks or openings where pipes exit the home, and fit unprotected pipes with pipe sleeves. Duct tape seals sleeve slits and joints where sleeves meet. Insulating pipes can reduce heat loss that makes your water heater work harder and use more energy, and raise water temperature 2 to 4 degrees Fahrenheit, according to the U.S. Department of Energy. If your home is drafty, adding weather stripping to seal air leaks can reduce heating bills as much as 20 percent, the DOE says. Identify places where air leaks occur in your home, and choose the right weather stripping for each area. Sealing cracks with caulk further reduces the air leaks that make furnaces work harder and homes feel drafty.

—Brandpoint

Furnace care

As winter approaches, it's important to take steps to winterize your gas furnace. Emily Lewicki, brand manager with Luxaire, recommends these steps:

Have the furnace professionally inspected and serviced. Remove any items that might have gotten stored near the furnace during the summer. Likewise, make sure air returns and vents are clean and not blocked by furniture or other items. Change air filters. Update your thermostat's programming to reflect your winter schedule. If you don't have a programmable thermostat, consider installing one; a properly programmed thermostat can reduce energy bills $180 a year, according to the ENERGYSTAR.gov website. If your current furnace is more than 10 years old, and frequently needs repair, consider replacing it before winter gets into full swing. Extreme cold can make a worn furnace work harder and possibly fail altogether when you need it most. 

—Brandpoint

Simple Shredding

One of fall's obnoxious chores in the eyes of many is cleaning up leaves scattered about the yard. To help save time and energy, add a leaf shredder to your arsenal of lawn equipment. By shredding leaves rather than expending time and resources bagging and disposing them, you can improve the look of your yard without as much physical stress.