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Preparing Your Home for the Winter

As the weather turns colder and harsher, it makes sense to consider protecting any valuable items that we own which will inevitably be affected. Some of our “stuff” such as boats, cars, motorcycles, and expensive equipment can be stored away and concealed from the elements. Ironically, though, the single most expensive item we own cannot be secured in a storage unit, covered with a tarp, or stowed away in the basement.

That’s because we’re talking about the one thing you own that sits atop the basement—your home.

While there are limitations to what steps we can take to protect our home from potentially severe natural elements, this does not mean we are completely without options. The following are common sense methods of ensuring you’ve adequately equipped your house for more frigid temperatures and the challenges they bring.

First, snow, sleet, and wind can wreak havoc on the exterior of a home. Consider taking the following steps in preparation:

Winterize your heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) components.

If you have window units, remove them, and store them away. If you have central air, cover the outdoor condenser with a tarp and secure it with bungee cords.

Flush and stash any hoses or open-air water containers you typically leave out during warmer climates.

Additionally, if you happen to have a sprinkler or irrigation system, be sure to turn off the water supply.

Check the gutters.

It’s crucial to prevent ice dams which can transpire when the attic is too warm.

Seal any cracks or holes that can develop over time around the house.

The most common areas to check are window and door frames.

Clear the yard of debris.

Trimming trees of dead branches near your home can prevent those weakened limbs from falling on your roof or onto any vehicles parked outside.

Purchase snow removal tools and ice-melting options.

You’ll want to mitigate slippery outdoor surfaces. Obviously, numerous retailers offer salt as a common “deicer.” However, if you’re concerned about potential damage to the environment, to your yard, or perhaps about the health and safety of your four-legged friend, then sand, sawdust, and kitty-litter are decent alternatives. While these options will not melt the ice on your sidewalks or porches, they will add some traction.

Check and lubricate the locks and catches on your doors and windows.

Few situations prove more frustrating than trying to enter your home on a blustery day and having a deadbolt get frozen or stuck.

Maintain the garage doors.

Lubricate all the moving parts including the cables and rollers. Also, keep everything tightened. The constant vibration of powered garage doors can loosen hardware and create gaps where you don’t want them.

Granted, it makes sense to focus on the exterior of a home as the weather changes, but it’s a mistake to overlook interior concerns. Here is some useful advice related to the inside of your home.

Ensure your heating ducts are clean and cleared.

This step is commensurate with the work you’ve already done with your AC. It might also be worthwhile to get your furnace inspected. Also, don’t forget to replace the filters.

Double check your smoke detectors.

Due, in part, to the increased use of fireplaces, candles, and the influx of holiday decorations, fires are more common in homes during the winter months. You’ll want your home and the people living in it to have ample warning if disaster strikes.

Consider flushing your water heater of any lime and sediment.

This will not only add longevity to the system, but it can also make the heating unit more efficient at a time when it is likely to be used more often.

Carefully test your home’s electrical system.

This is especially important in older homes where wiring can become faulty and breakers are more likely to fail. Living in a home without power for a brief amount of time during the summer months is feasible. The challenges that a power outage present when it’s freezing outside are unpleasant and potentially dangerous.

Adjust your ceiling fans to move in a clockwise direction.

Many homeowners think of their ceiling fans as a means to cooling a room on a balmy afternoon. However, by changing the direction of your fans to a clockwise motion, the blades will push the warm air that collects along the ceiling down towards the floor.

Consider buying draft stoppers or guards.

The undersides of your doors and windows are often poorly sealed against cold air. While it’s possible to roll up an old blanket or a beach towel along the base of these entry ways, it’s not the most practical option, nor is this choice very attractive.

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