The winter can really be rough for homeowners. As cold air descends from the north, temperatures drop and the heating bill rises. Instead of letting costs soar, it may be wise to take a few steps to keep a home warm during this season.

While turning up the thermostat can often be the easiest way to increase the temperature, it may not be the most cost-effective. In fact, there are a number of other steps one could take to be comfortable during the winter, and they mostly don't cost a whole lot of money. These can include regular maintenance, some ingenuity and a few smart ideas.

Most importantly, homeowners should have a property inspection completed at this time. A licensed professional will look over an entire house and identify any problem areas, or any other concerns that may need immediate attention.

Tips to stay warm during the winter

Is it as cold inside as it is outside? If this is the case, odds are there is a serious problem with a home's heating system. While it may be easier to throw on some extra layers and crawl under the nearest blanket, this could lead to more problems down the road and higher utility costs.

According to Kiplinger, winter drafts can cause problems throughout a house. This means air leaks around windows and doors, where cold air gets in and all that warm air escapes. For a cheap fix, the nearest home improvement store sells weatherstripping or clear plastic film to apply over windows. In many houses, older windows often let cold air right through. Taking the time to seal them up properly will help reduce the heating bill while letting the residents live comfortably inside. 

In addition to the windows and doors, the furnace in the basement may need a tune-up, Kiplinger noted. Each year, a professional can come in to make sure that this component is operating efficiently. In many cases, it is actually losing heat and energy, leading to added costs and wasted heat. It may also be smart to replace the air conditioning unit at the same time, especially if it is an older model. 

Common heating problems during the winter

Problems with the heating system can pop up at any time. If something may be wrong, a home inspection professional can come in and clarify any concerns. While issues could start anywhere, there are several common faults that appear over and over again, in homes all across the country.

According to RedBeacon, sometimes homeowners turn the heat on and nothing happens. If this occurs, the first step is to figure exactly where the problem has started. It may be a total loss of electricity, which would warrant a call to the electrician, or it could be a lack of gas not fueling the pilot light. The thermostat could also be at fault, and it may not be recognizing that the temperature is cold enough to require heat.

Issues could appear in the ductwork, as well. RedBeacon explained that blockages can occur anywhere in the home, even from rodents and insects. In addition to a clog, ducts could start to leak. This can lead to wasted heat, and colder rooms than what is expected. With any problem such as this, the appropriate expert should be called in right away.

These concerns - and many others - could crop up at any point during the winter. While it may be tempting to do nothing and just ride out the cold weather, this could add to the problems and cost a homeowner money. On the other hand, a home inspection can figure out where something went wrong, and identify what needs to be fixed to keep a house warm.