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Let's Winter-Proof Your Home

Colder temperatures and blustery winds will soon be a part of our daily life as winter ebbs ever closer. It’s important to begin winterizing your home long before the icy temperatures arrive. By taking a little time each weekend, your home will be ready for winter weather without much effort. You can keep more warmth in your home by taking the time to winter-proof your home. 

Begin by checking with your local utilities to see if they have any programs to help you save on your winter energy bills. Many utilities have a home heating check-up or can at least recommend steps you can take to ensure your home isn’t wasting energy during the winter months. With proper upkeep and weatherproofing, you can save money this year.

One of the easiest things to do to winter-proof your home is to check for leaks around your windows and doors. Light a candle and hold it about six inches from the window or door and move it around slowly. If the candle flickers, you know there’s a leak in that area. By weather stripping or caulking to stop the leaks, you can save up to 15% off your heating bill.

After you’ve added weather stripping, there could still be a draft. You can find plastic sheeting kits that will help block drafts, at most home improvement stores and even discount stores. The plastic sheet is stretched over the window and then gone over with a blow dryer. This creates a barrier, which will keep the cold air out.

Crawl under the home or in the attic, wherever your ductwork is, to check the seals, as they will wear out over time and with use. Replace any ductwork that is damaged and re-tape any joints, which have come loose. While you’re working around the ductwork, you may also want to ensure there is enough insulation in both areas of your home.

Your heating unit or furnace should be checked each year to ensure it is working properly. Have a professional come out unless you’re very familiar with the mechanics of your furnace. Remember to clean or change the filter in your furnace each month during the winter. This will help it run properly and could reduce your heating bill. If your heating system runs on natural gas, you’ll want a professional to check it for gas leaks.

Clean out the gutters around your home and inspect the fascia boards. While you’re up along the roof, check the roof for damage and cracks in the chimney if you have one. Make any repairs that are needed to ensure your home is as safe and secure as possible before winter arrives.

Winterize your air conditioner, whether it is a window unit or a large whole-house unit. Shut the water off to the air conditioner so you don’t have to worry about it freezing. You’ll also want to cover it with an insulated blanket to keep snow and debris out of it.

Insulate pipes, wires, or vents, which lead outdoors. This will help keep cold air outside where it belongs. It would also be helpful to check around your light switches and electrical plugs. If you notice drafts around them, you can put insulation behind the plate to keep the cold air out. 

When you winter-proof your home, the time and effort is an investment in your home. Winterizing your home will result in a warmer house even if you set your thermostat a couple of degrees cooler. You’ll also notice a difference in your energy bills during the winter months.

How to Protect Your Pipes from Freezing

As summer draws to a close, you may be thinking about the coming winter. Is your home ready for the first frost? You can learn how to protect your pipes from freezing before it’s too late.

Over a quarter of a million homes experience frozen pipes each winter. Not only are frozen pipes expensive to repair, your home and contents may be ruined. In a matter of minutes, a one-eighth inch crack can release 250 gallons of water and disrupt your life in ways you may never imagine.

Sub-zero temperatures and cold winds can wreak havoc on your water pipes if they’re not protected. What can you do now to prepare for that first frost to ensure your pipes don’t freeze and burst this year?

* Know where the main water shut off valve is to your home. This will enable you to shut the water off to the house should one of the pipes freeze and burst. The quicker you can get the water shut off, the less damage will be done. This will also give you time to call the plumber for help.

* Find out where the water pipes are located in your home. In most cases, they will be in the crawl space under your home or possibly in your attic. Once you’ve found exposed pipes, wrap them with insulation. The more protective insulation you can wrap around them, the less likely they are to freeze and burst.

* In extremely cold temperatures, you may also want to use thermostatically controlled heat cables. These can be wrapped around the insulation and should only be used according to manufacturer’s instructions for installing them. Underwriters Laboratories, Inc. independently tests and approves these cables; be sure to use only those which have been UL approved.

* Take the time to seal up any leaks around the pipes, which may be allowing cold air into the area where the pipes are exposed. This could mean checking around electrical wiring, which comes through the walls, dryer vents and the pipes themselves. Use flexible insulation, caulk, or a can of expandable foam insulation. By blocking as much air as possible, you’ll lessen the chance of the pipes bursting.

* Disconnect and remove any garden hoses that won’t be used during the winter. Turn the valve off to the spigot and drain all of the water from the faucet. 

* If you must leave a faucet active for whatever reason, remove the garden hose between uses. You can also put an insulated cap over the faucet to keep it from freezing.

* When the temperatures are expected to get especially frigid, leave a trickle of hot and cold water running, in at least one sink that is on an outside wall. This may be just enough to avoid freezing pipes. 

* Allow cabinet doors with un-insulated pipes under it to remain open. This will allow the warm air from the house to heat the pipes and keep the pipes from freezing.

* Keep the thermostat to your home set no lower than 55 degrees Fahrenheit even if you’re not going to be home. Then ask family or a neighbor to check on your home periodically while you’re gone to ensure the temperature doesn’t fall too low.

No one wants to experience a burst water pipe. By getting ready for the first frost, you’ll be well on your way to avoiding one.