By Michelle Ullman
Prepare Home Winter Torch Blog Banner
When the wind starts howling outside and the temperature drops, it's usually a sign that winter is on its way. It's probably time to prepare your home for the accompanying winter weather and temperatures. Winterizing your home is essential to a more comfortable season for you and your family -- to help get you ready for the colder months ahead, follow these cold weather safety tips:

Maintain your heating system. Get your furnace ready for the hard work ahead by ensuring that it's running as efficiently as possible. Start by changing the unit's filter. A clogged filter will cause the heating system to work harder and less efficiently. If you haven't had a professional check your furnace within the last two to three years, now's a good time to call an HVAC specialist for an assessment and service. Ductwork should also be cleaned every three to seven years.

Ready your fireplace. Inspect your fireplace damper to ensure it's working properly. It's important that it tightly seals shut when not in use to keep your home warm and that it opens up completely when you choose to light a fire. Also ensure that the chimney cap is screened to keep out debris, birds and rodents. It's also a good idea to have the chimney swept at the beginning of the season to remove buildup from the chimney lining, smoke chamber, firebox and damper. Burning wood creates a buildup of creosote on the interior of your chimney, and this creosote is highly flammable. Also prepare ahead now for upcoming toasty fires by buying or chopping firewood, which should be stored in a dry location away from the exterior of your home, such as a shed.

Perform a foundation check. Considering that your foundation is the structure that supports your entire house, it's important to keep rain and snow from building up around your home's perimeter. Protect your house's foundation by ensuring that there isn't a buildup of vegetation or soil around the outside of your home and take necessary steps to ensure water will run away from the side of your house. Clean out gutters and check that downspouts emit water at least six feet away from the base of your home; flexible piping attached to your downspouts works especially well for routing water to designated areas. If you have a basement, also check basement windows to make sure they are well sealed.

Reduce door drafts. Leaky doors can be a major source of the chilly drafts that increase your utility bills. Reduce breezy conditions around your exterior doors by installing door sweeps or draft stops under each door and weather stripping along each side.

Pest proof. Cold weather can drive pests, like rodents, indoors. The perimeter of doors and windows, the chimney cap, attic vents, roofing and siding and areas where utility lines and pipes enter the home are all locations where rodents typically find entry. Inspect the exterior of your home for cracks and holes through which rodents can enter, and seal off these potential entry points with copper wool, which rodents are unable to chew through.

Protect vulnerable water pipes. Pipes exposed to freezing temperatures are prone to bursting during cold weather. Pipes located in unheated areas of the home such as the attic, garage and crawl spaces are the most at risk. Protect susceptible water pipes by installing pipe insulation sleeving or wrapping. Avoid leaving any gaps in the wrapping where cold air could enter.


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