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10 Tips to Prepare Your Home for the Winter

1 - Properly Weatherproof Windows and Doors

Insulating windows and exterior walls and preventing doorway drafts are easy yet overlooked ways to reduce your heating bills. You can do so using common, inexpensive materials like weather sealing and plastic insulation film. Studies show that drafts alone can account for 5% to 30% of your energy use on a monthly basis. Another easy to do weekend project is to caulk your windows or install storm windows. Both help to make a solid seal to prevent cold air from entering your home and warm air from escaping.

2 - Check and Insulate Your Roof, Attic, and Gutters

You'd be surprised by just how many ways cold air could enter your house. Insulation is generally considered the best option to retain your home's heat. Adding extra insulation to attics and crawl spaces is essential if it has never been done or if your winter temperature frequently falls below freezing (32 degrees). Also, check for crevices that may be in your roof's flashing gutters that can be sealed or insulated. If you can afford to have a professional add extra insulation to these areas of your home of even if you do the work yourself, insulation is always a great investment.

3 - Get Your Furnace Inspected

Just like everything else in your home, furnaces need attention, too. This often means hiring a professional to properly inspect it and clean your ducts, if needed. One thing you could easily do yourself, though, is to be sure to replace your furnace filters on a regular basis. You may also consider switching to a programmable thermostat to help maximize energy control. A good tip is to set your thermostat higher when you're not home in the summer and to set it lower when you're not home in the winter months. After all, there's no need to maintain a certain temperature if you're not home to enjoy it.

4 - Clean Your Fireplace

Upkeep on your chimney is important, so here's what to do. To ensure rodents and large insects cannot enter, cap or replace the mesh screening on top of your chimney. This is an easy task that most people can do themselves. To properly remove soot and creosote however, you might need to call in the professionals as there is some risk involved. Lastly, pre-cut any firewood and store it in a dry place on the exterior of your home. It's best to choose a place at least a few feet from the foundation or walls of your home due to insects or pests that may be attracted to the wood pile. For more tips, we advise that you check out the Chimney Safety Institute of America.

5 - Check your Foundation

Similar to your chimney, you should be in the habit of looking at your foundation every fall. Block off any entry points to prevent animals from crawling under the house. Inspect sill plates and look for cracks in the foundation, keeping an eye out for infestation of any kind.

6 - Prep Your Plumbing Lines

In the case of a line freeze or burst, you should know where your water main is located on your property. If you have troubles locating yours, call the city. They can send someone out to assist. Some measures you can take to help prevent frozen lines include draining your garden hoses, insulating exposed plumbing lines, and setting your homes temperature to about 55 degrees if you're going to be on vacation for an extended period of time.

7 - Prep Your Home's Exterior and Landscaping

To help prevent trees from damaging electrical wires, it's best to trim them before winter hits. Limbs often freeze, loaded down with ice, making them heavy enough to break.These branches falling onto low lying lines often results in damages that could have easily been prevented. It's also a good habit to bring potted plants indoors for the winter. Lastly, you can seal up driveways, wooden decks and brick patios to better prevent harsh winters and moisture damage.

8 - Have an Emergency Kit Handy

This is a tip that my mom has been telling me for years. Your home's kit should have a stash of candles with matches or a lighter, flashlights with extra batteries, bottled water, nonperishable food, and some blankets. Last but not least, have a first aid kit ready to go at all times. Consider updating your emergency kit at the beginning of each season to be sure you have all you need on hand.

9 - Have a Plan

Most people know what an emergency plan is, but have no idea what it consists of nor how to execute one. First thing first, everyone in the family should know where the emergency kit is located. Depending on the disaster (tornado, earthquake, hurricane, etc.), you must act accordingly and have a plan for each. Know where to hide, when to hide, what to gather, and who to contact. Another strategy includes knowing the exit points at all times. This is especially important to communicate to children. The point here is to get everyone in your family aware of your plan and to commit to it. When disaster strikes, you must be quick to respond. To get more information on putting together a detailed emergency plan, visit 72hours.org. You will find some great tips here.

10 - Isolate Your Home's Heat

Keep doors of unused rooms closed at all times. This will prevent you from unused heating space unnecessarily. That heat is better served somewhere else in the house, so don't make it easy for it to escape. This same tip applies for people that rely on space heaters. It is much more efficient and cost effective to only heat the parts of your home you use. After all, they don't call them "space" heaters for nothing.

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