Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Is Your Home Ready for Winter?

The change of seasons signals a time to prepare your home for winter, no matter what climate you call home. Taking the following steps now can not only save money, but provide added warmth and peace of mind.

Clean the gutters. Remove leaves and other debris from the gutters using your hand, a scraper or spatula, then rinse down with a hose. Also check that the downspouts are carrying water away from the house’s foundation, where it could cause flooding or water damage.

Seal the leaks. If your home feels drafty, cold air may be seeping in from around the window and door frames, electrical outlets and recessed lighting. Apply caulk around these areas, and use door sweeps to close spaces under exterior doors.

Test smoke detectors. Make sure smoke detectors operate properly and replace the batteries, if needed. Also invest in a carbon monoxide detector, and make sure the fire extinguisher works.

Take care of windows. In colder climates, remove window screens and put up storm windows, which will add warmth and protect your home from the elements. If you don’t have storm windows and the windows are leaky or drafty, consider updating to more efficient ones. Or for a low-cost solution, use a window insulator kit to keep out cold air.

Inspect the chimney. Before using the fireplace, have the chimney inspected for creosote buildup, and if needed, cleaned. When the fireplace is not in use, keep the chimney damper closed to keep out cold air.

Add insulation. Most homes in the U.S. need a minimum of 12 inches of insulation in the attic regardless of the climate.

Check the furnace. Before the coldest temperatures set in, turn on your furnace to make sure it’s working properly. Check the filters monthly and change them if they are dirty. A dirty filter impedes air flow and could cause a fire in extreme circumstances.

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