Home & Safety Preparedness

Welcome Winter with a Well-Prepped Home

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Some people dream of hitting the ski slopes; others simply dread the thought of shoveling the driveway. Whatever your take on winter, you can be ready to manage its chill by winterizing your home and property. From age-old measures to more modern innovations, the following tips can help you maximize energy efficiency, prevent damage, and keep your family safe and warm all winter long.

  1. Clean your gutters: Left in gutters, leaves and other debris from warmer seasons can cause ice dams to form. These can prevent proper drainage, allowing water to possibly seep into your home.
  2. Seal it up: From drafty doors to windy windows, most homes have areas that are vulnerable to heat loss and cold-air entry. Use door sweeps on exterior doors, and consider buying a window insulator kit (temporary plastic sheeting) if you don't have storm windows. Seal any indoor or outdoor leaks, including cracks and gaps, with caulking. And don't forget electrical outlets; take care of these subtle but serious heat thieves with inexpensive foam gaskets.
  3. Get duct work checked: Have your heating duct work inspected for proper connection, damage, insulation, and clogs before winter hits, and invest in any needed repairs.
  4. Cut dead tree limbs: Snow and ice can weigh down brittle branches and cause them to break off and fall. This lesser-considered but critical measure may save your gutters, your car, and even your roof from damage.
  5. Prepare your plumbing: Pipes that run through unheated areas, such as crawlspaces and garages, are at particular risk for freezing. Wrap these pipes with rubber sleeves, fiberglass insulation, or electric warming wraps. Shut off outdoor water valves, such as hose bibs, and drain their pipes. Be sure to always follow the manufacturing instructions.
  6. Have your chimney inspected: Before you light the season's first log, make sure your chimney is clean and clear. Once it is, a chimney cap with a screen can serve as a permanent ounce of prevention. Avert drafts by closing the damper when your fireplace isn't in use.
  7. Have your furnace inspected: Your furnace may need cleaning in order to work properly all season long. It's also a good time to ensure carbon monoxide and smoke detectors are functioning, and to replace their batteries.
  8. Put your fan in reverse: Get some extra low-cost heat from a seemingly unlikely source: your ceiling fan. Set your fan to circulate clockwise, which will force warm air downward.

While some of these measures are easy do-it-yourself projects, inspections and other specialized tasks may require a professional. Get recommendations for local services from friends, neighbors, and colleagues. For information on tax credits toward energy efficiency improvements, visit the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 website at http://www.irs.gov/recovery.

If winter does get the best of your home through heavy snow, wind, or ice damage, your insurance plan may cover certain repairs. We can help you understand the specifics of your policy. In the meantime, don't let your dollars seep out the window... take cost-effective steps to winterize now.

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