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So you’ve started pulling those sweaters out of mothballs and started seeing holiday decorations in stores … have you thought about getting your house ready for the cold months ahead?

It’s easier to get through the long winter months with peace of mind and money in your pockets, if you start preparing now and not at the last minute.

Here’s a boiled down Fall to-do list in 10 easy steps:

  1.  Clean gutters: Once the leaves fall, remove them and any other debris from your drainage gutters, so snow and winter rain can drain out and away from your house.  Clogged drains can for ice dams. When water freezes and backs up, water can seep into the house.
  2. Block leaks:  The average American home has leaks that amount to a nine-square-foot hole in the wall!  An easy way to find leaks is to walk around your house on a breezy day with a lit incense stick. The most common drafty areas are: recessed lighting, window/door frames, and electrical outlets.Use door sweeps for door drafts and caulk for other drafty spots.  Use weather-resistant caulk for outside. Even if you think a crack is too small, it’s worth sealing up. It also discourages insects from finding a warm hiding place.
  3. Insulate yourself:  A great fix that costs little money is adding insulation to your attic. Regardless of your climate, you need 12 inches of insulation in your attic. If you can see ceiling joints, you don’t have enough.
  4. Face your windows:  It’s time to take down window screens and put up storm windows, which provide an extra layer of protection and warmth in your home. Of course windows are pricey, so if you can’t afford to replace old drafty windows this season, you can purchase a plastic window insulation kit for cheap, which will help cut down on those heating bills.
  5. Wrap those pipes:  A burst pipe caused by a winter freeze can be a nightmare.  Before freezing nights hit, make sure all outside water lines are drained and shut off(hoses, sprinklers, etc). Also, go around your house and check to see if there are any pipes that are not insulated or pass through unheated spaces (crawlspaces, basements, garages) and be sure to wrap them. Pre-slit pipe foam can be cheaply purchased at any hardware store.
  6. Reverse that fan:  Reversing your ceiling fan is a small tip that people don’t often  think of.  By reversing its direction from the summer operation, the fan will push warm air downward and force it to re-circulate, keeping you more comfortable.
  7. Get your ducts in a row:  According to the U.S. Department of Energy, a home with central heating can lose up to 60% of its heated air before that air reaches the vents if ductwork is not well connected and insulated, or if it must travel through unheated spaces.  That’s a huge amount of wasted money! You can often see exposed ducts in attics, basements, and crawlspaces.Ducts should also be vacuumed out once a year to clean out abundant dust, animal hair and other allergens that cause respiratory problems.
  8. Mind that thermostat:  It’s easy to forget to turn down the heat when you leave the building, but doing so is one of the surest ways to save money.  Most households shell out 50 to 70% of their energy budgets of heating and cooling, so why pay for what no one uses? For every degree you lower the thermostat during heating season, you’ll save between 1 and 3% of your heating bill. Make it easier with a Lux programmable thermostat. They are widely available and come in many models with a variety of features that will best suit your family’s needs.
  9. Check the furnace:  First, turn your furnace on to make sure it’s even working. If strong odor persists  for a lengthy period of time, turn it off and call a professional. Furnace filters should be changed once a month during winter. Dirty filters restrict air flow and increase energy demand causing your heating bills to skyrocket. Worst cases, dirty, clogged filters can even cause a house fire.
  10. Finally, check those alarms:  This is a great time to check the operation, and change batteries of smoke detectors and carbon monoxide detectors. Also check  to see that your fire extinguisher is still where it should be, and still works.

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