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Before the First Frost

Six tips and tricks to prepare your home for winter By Joshua Nishimoto

Before the first frost

As the seasons change from hot summer to cool autumn and into fall, many people find themselves doing some annual chores to make sure that their home is prepared for winter, while many find themselves unprepared for the colder, and wetter, winter months.

To make sure that you are ready for the change of season, there are some very easy and cost-effective ways to prepare your home to endure the harshest of winters. Some of these items may end up costing a bit more than you would like to spend upfront but will save you a ton of money in the long run. When you’re preparing to host for the holidays, keep your family warm and comfortable, or just getting ready to embrace winter without spending a lot of money, some of these seemingly minor things can not only save you money but keep your house warm and protected from the harsh winter conditions, adding to the longevity of your home.

Here are six helpful tips to keep you and your loved ones comfortable in preparation for Winter:

1. Check your home’s heating and air conditioning system. There’s never a good time to be stuck in an uncomfortable and possibly deadly cold with a heating system that’s on the fritz. Make sure your systems are up to snuff by hiring a heating technician who will inspect your furnace or heat pump to make sure that it’s in good shape and manufacturer-rated efficiency for roughly $80 to $100. The inspection should also measure carbon monoxide. Making sure to hire a proper technician early on will make it less likely that you’ll need to hire one last minute for crucial repairs.

2. Turn off your outdoor hose/sprinklers and keep your pipes warm. Your pipes are prone to freezing in frigid temperatures. This can cause damage, such as pipes bursting and water flooding your home. Not only will you have possible damage from flooding, but you will also lose free-flowing water from your taps, causing a terrible inconvenience.

To ensure that your pipes are functioning properly during the coldest times of the year, be sure to seal, insulate, use heat tape and keep your faucets slightly open to ensure that water is flowing at temperatures above freezing. Also, be sure to place a bucket under the faucet to prevent water waste.

3. Clean your gutters. There are many ways to weatherize your home. In the multitude of items to check off, your gutters can sometimes go unnoticed. Before starting the clean-up process, spread the tarp underneath your gutters to collect all the debris, grime and dead leaves to protect your landscape. Next, scrub the gutters to remove all the gunk. Pull out wet leaves using a plumbing snake, and flush the gutter using a garden hose to clear out the remaining dirt. When finished, you may find it worthwhile to install a gutter guard to keep out leaves, sand grit and other debris.

4. Check your chimney and fireplace. Be sure to clean your fireplace. Dust ash and other particles can fill the surrounding areas that need to be cleaned before the winter season sets in.

Inspect chimneys for damage. Cracks, loose bricks and broken mortar can occur due to ice dams in the room. Be sure to fix any aspects of your chimney that look broken or are starting to deteriorate and may prevent your chimney from working properly. Also, be sure to replace your chimney cap if it’s broken to keep leaves, rain/snow and debris out of your chimney.

5. Check your furnace. Dirt and debris can build up in your furnace and cause inefficiency, increased energy bills, and even pose a safety risk. Cracks in the furnace can cause deadly poisonous gas to make its way inside your home. In addition, a dirty furnace won’t be able to provide you with a warm, comfortable environment. The furnace filter trapped with lint, pollen and debris obstructs airflow and makes your furnace run longer to heat the house.

Be sure to inspect air leaks and insulate them. Also, be sure to clean your filters before the start of the season, and don’t forget to change them every three months. When in doubt, hire a professional for a thorough checkup before the start of the season. They will check all the major components and also test for carbon monoxide leakage.

6. Increase your heating options. In winter, heavy snow and strong winds can cause power outages. To counter this, you should have a backup option of a heating system that uses natural gas, propane or wood.

Use gas or a wood fireplace when your traditional heating source is not functioning properly. Be sure to clean it before the weather turns and the outside temperature drops. Store a supply of firewood in a dry place off the ground. This will protect the wood from pests and moisture when stored in or outdoors. It can come in handy when the power is out. And last but not least, use a generator to run electric heating devices during a power outage. Following these alternative heating sources just may save your life.

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