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Make sure your home is ready for winter

Family together inside their homeWe’re all spending more time at home than ever before. With colder, wetter weather around the corner, it’s important to make sure your home is in the best shape to keep your family safe and warm--and prevent some costly headaches down the road.

It won’t cost a fortune or take hours of your life to get your home ready for winter, either. Here are a few tips to help you prepare and save some money in the process.

Reinforce inside and out
Sealing drafty doors and windows can be done fairly easily with plastic window insulation and homemade draft snakes along the bottom of doors. As you keep the cold out from inside your home, don’t forget to protect the outside of your home, too. Any wooden exteriors—like fences, decks or window trim—should be sealed from the elements to avoid potential rot. The wood that gets used to build decks has usually been pressure-treated so it doesn’t need further protection, but sometimes the wood trim around exterior doors and windows is untreated wood that won’t last long without some help. Make sure these surfaces are covered, either with paint or a water-resistant stain, and avoid costly replacements down the road.

Check on your furnace and filters
Air filters should be checked and replaced on a regular schedule, especially before the winter season when your system will be working extra hard. If your air filters are clogged, the warm air that is pumping from your furnace will have a harder time reaching you. Dirty air filters can increase energy waste when your heater is running, so it’s good to replace your filters at least before the cold season. 

And if it’s been a while since you had your furnace looked at, get a professional inspection to ensure it’s operating efficiently and effectively. This can lengthen the life of your furnace and save you money on your winter bills. 

Keep an eye on the thermostat
Make sure your thermostat isn’t running on high when nobody is home. If you are worried about wasting energy, you can get a programmable thermostat and lower the heat the lowest temperature comfortable to save money on energy bills. By turning your thermostat down 10 to 15 degrees while you are asleep or away from home (or for about 8 hours of the day), you can save as much as 10% a year on your heating bill according to the Department of Energy.

Fire safety
If you’re lucky enough to enjoy a warm fire at home during the winter, it’s a good idea to get an annual (or semi-annual) check up to make sure the fireplace and chimney are safe. Creosote buildup can be a fire hazard and dangerous for your health, and some animals may have even made a home in your chimney since the last time you used your fireplace. 

Water safety
Water damage in the home is among the most costly emergencies a homeowner can face, so it’s best to stay proactive. Remember to disconnect any outdoor hoses to keep the bibs and spigots from freezing and causing major water damage. Another culprit can be your gutters, so make sure to clear out any leaf deposits that could clog your gutters and cause overflow and freezing. Keep an eye out for any discoloration or warping in your walls and ceiling, as this could be a sign of water damage. When it comes to water, even an issue that appears to be small can grow quickly, so stay ahead by checking and patching leaks around your sinks and toilets, too. 

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