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Only Mother Nature knows for certain what the future holds, but what is undeniable is the winter is coming, and ready or not, your home - and your wallet - could feel the effects should you fail to prepare.
Here are a few tips to help you get your house in winter mode.
For a solid stretch of the year, you probably never dial up the thermostat in your home's interior, in effect sending your furnace into hibernation mode. Furnaces are like automobiles - they were made for movement - and by sitting lifeless for months on end, your home's central heating unit may break down when you least expect it.
"Most people don't understand that their boiler has been sitting dormant for months," warned utility services expert Michael Petri. "Once October hits, if your boiler isn't properly functioning, you could have a serious problem on your hands."
Petri urges homeowners to contact their utility service maintenance professional as soon as possible to schedule a checkup. He or she will be able to identify any issues and correct them before they get worse.
1. Replace filters
The filters that fit around furnaces helps distribute airflow in a steady fashion and traps harmful particulates. Over time, though, these filters get clogged and prevent furnaces from doing what they do best: heating your home. Popular Mechanics recommends replacing filters once a month between November and March, or however long the cold weather persists. Electrostatic filters are especially efficient, trapping 88 percent of debris, such as bacteria and mold. HEPA filters are also effective and come highly recommended by the Department of Energy.
Performing basic winter maintenance - such as insulating, caulking, upgrading weather stripping and filters, having your chimneys checked, and wrapping water piping in UL listed heat tape or pipe sleeves - just might save you from a property nightmare in the middle of winter for a fraction of the cost, energy and time spent to remedy.
2. Clean south-facing windows
It's always a good idea to keep your windows crystal clear, but it's especially important during the winter, because solar energy can help to heat your home. As noted by the DOE, if you have windows on the south side of your home, ensuring that they remain clean and clear will help to heat your home naturally, relying less on the furnace or other heat sources.
3. Service the chimney
When was the last time you had your chimney swept? If you burn wood to help heat your home, the inside of your chimney is likely lined with soot, which is highly flammable. According to the Chimney Safety Institute of America, between 20,000 and 25,000 chimney fires occur in the U.S. on an annual basis, often due to poor maintenance. Talk to friends if they know of a good chimney sweep, who can tell you how often your chimney should be cleaned.
4. Clean out gutters
If you live in a heavily wooded area, your gutters are - or soon will be - caked with dirt, leaves and debris from the trees that every year shed their colorful foliage. This can present drainage problems that may lead to localized flooding or ice dams, which can lead to leaks affecting the ceiling. Keep an eye on your gutters as the winter draws closer and clean them out on an as-needed basis.
In addition to clearing the roof, gutters, and windows of ice, maintaining your walkways, driveways, sidewalks and steps is also very important in the winter. Many people don't realize that this type of negligence or a lack of maintenance opens them up to a lawsuit, liability exposures, and in some states is considered breaking the law.
Check out the DOE's website for more tips and tricks to implement before winter officially shows up.
Twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week, your home serves as your sanctuary from the elements. Make sure you take good care of it by winterizing and updating your homeowners insurance policy.