(NewsUSA) – You know you’re supposed to do it twice a year. But what homeowner relishes the thought of climbing a ladder to check the health of his roof — as key to a home’s energy efficiency as that roof might be — when the weather is turning sharply colder outside? Well, as it turns out, while even a quick, eyeball roof-check is recommended this time of year, there’s a fallback option. You could just check your attic instead. “Roofs actually create an insulated barrier that helps trap heat inside, and most attic spaces are located right below them,” explains Jason Joplin, program manager of the Center for the Advancement of Roofing Excellence. “That makes them perfect for spotting potential problem areas and damage without worrying about falling.” Here’s some tips on what to look for:* Water leaks. As sure as cable companies will do anything to avoid a la carte pricing, it will soon storm. And when it does, shine a flashlight up in the attic in search of not just dripping water and condensation, but also water stains on the ceiling, walls and floor. All are signs that H2O is finding its way under your roof’s shingles or behind its flashings.* Animal damage. You don’t want to know the havoc refuge-seeking birds, bats, squirrels and raccoons can cause. So anything suspicious — nests, droppings and gnawed wood, wires or insulation — merits an immediate call to a pest professional. * Ventilation. “Think of the attic as the lungs of the house,” says Joplin. “It has to be able to breathe in order to function properly.” Meaning, if your vents are stuffed with debris, they need to be cleared.* Structure. Any hint of a sagging roof — look up for this one — could signal potential structural weakness requiring professional repair. But wait. You say you love the cold as much as you do the spring (the recommended time for a second annual roof check-up)? If so, you can still inspect for structural deformities without risking your neck on a treacherous ladder by using binoculars to zoom in on everything from loose shingles to broken gutters. And if prolonging your roof’s life is truly your goal, experts say it pays to consult a professional roofing contractor who’s insured and uses quality materials like Timberline American Harvest shingles from GAF, North America’s largest roofing manufacturer. A free service that makes it easy to find a factory-certified contractor in your area can be found at www.gaf.com.