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Prep your house for winter and save.

During the winter season, you have enough on your plate. There are presents to wrap, loved ones to visit and mugs of hot cocoa to drink. You don’t have time to worry about frozen pipes or a furnace that won’t start. Fortunately, there are some ways you can prepare now to help decrease the likelihood of winter-related incidents, save money on energy costs and optimize your time by the fireplace.

Schedule a furnace inspection.
You wouldn’t want your furnace to cut out in the middle of winter – or on a major holiday – and leave you stuck in the cold until a repair specialist can fix it. To ensure your furnace is working properly, schedule an inspection every year before the winter season. Here are some other ways you can help optimize heat in your house this winter:
  • Make sure vents aren’t blocked by furniture
  • Reverse the direction of your ceiling fan rotation to push rising heat down into the room
  • Weatherstrip your house to plug air leaks and air drafts and save more than 20% on heating bills
Clean out gutters.
If your gutters are full, water from melting snow or ice might back up and start to affect your roof, siding and wood trim. Add extended downspouts as well to help point water at least 3-4 feet away from the foundation of your house.

Reinforce the roof.
Winter weather can cause leaks and put excessive weight on your roof. A roof in good shape can hold about four feet of new snow or two feet of old snow, according to the Institute for Business & Home Safety. Schedule a roof inspection to ensure your roof is in good shape, especially if it’s an older roof. Here are some other ways to bolster your roof before winter:
  • Fix or replace broken shingles that could allow leaks
  • Cut down any tree limbs that might fall on your roof or on power lines
  • Check the flashing seals around vent stacks and chimneys
Protect your pipes.
During cold weather, the water in your pipes can freeze, expand and stress pipes until they break. Pipes in unheated areas like the garage, basement and in kitchen cabinets are especially vulnerable to freezing. Do the following in advance to help protect your pipes both inside and outside:
  • Have your sprinkler system drained
  • Disconnect and drain yard hoses
  • Close inside valves that feed outdoor faucets
  • Drain outdoor valves and keep them open
  • Insulate water pipes with a pipe sleeve or similar product – or even newspaper
  • Consider applying an insulated blanket to your hot water heater
When the temperature drops, pay close attention to pipes in unheated areas of your house. Run a slow trickle of water through them to help prevent freezing. In the kitchen and in bathrooms, open cabinet doors to allow warm air to flow around pipes. If a pipe does freeze, apply heat to it with an electric heating pad, hair dryer, space heater or hot towel.

Visit Consumer Reports for more information on preventing your pipes from freezing.

Insulate the attic floor.
It’s like putting a hat on your head in winter: insulating your attic floor helps keep heat inside your home. It slows the melt of ice and snow on your roof as well, which helps prevent leaks. You can also ventilate your attic to allow cold air flow to help keep ice and snow from thawing.

Stock snow removal supplies.
Many people love the first snowfall of the year – until we need to get somewhere. Make sure you have salt or ice melt and a snow shovel or snow blower in good condition.

While you’re in the garage, check the fuel in your lawn mower gas tank. If it’s low on fuel, let it run to empty. If not, fill the gas tank, add stabilizer to the fuel, and run the engine briefly to allow it to circulate.

Put a winter safety kit in the car.
Beyond a snow scraper, you should stock safety supplies in case you get stranded while on the road. The Red Cross recommends keeping the following in your car:
  • Blanket
  • Hat, gloves and scarf
  • Cell phone car charger
  • Flashlight
  • First aid kit
  • Hand-crank weather radio
  • Extra batteries
  • Sand or cat litter
You should also take your car to a service garage to top off the antifreeze and windshield wiper fluid, replace old windshield wiper blades, and check the tread on your tires.

Winter is a magical time full of warm memories, hot drinks and fun times. But it can also put stress on a home and run up energy bills. By taking care of the tasks above, you should hopefully be set up to make the best of the season.

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