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The official start of the winter season will be here before you know it. Whether that brings you feelings of joy or dread, do what you can NOW to make sure that your home is ready for the (likely) brutal weather ahead — that is, unless you live in an area that sees mild and sunny winters (lucky you!).

Many homeowners know that they need to put their lawnmower, rake, garden hose, and outdoor furniture into storage until spring, but there are other commonly forgotten areas of a home that should also be maintained ahead of the winter season. Read on to learn more.

Seal all the openings in your home.

Windows and doors

You may be shocked by how much cold outdoor air seeps into your home via openings in your window and door frames — and by how much warm air from your furnace is able to escape. As time passes, the seal around your frames may start to weaken or deteriorate in certain areas. When this happens, it’s only a matter of time before there’s air flowing in and out of your family’s home.

This doesn’t just make your home feel as if it’s being unevenly heated, but it could also cause your heating system to work overtime to try and keep it warm. Ultimately, this could lead to higher energy bills and premature wear and tear on your unit.

To take care of this common household problem, you can purchase weatherstripping materials online or at your local hardware store to add to the perimeter of your window and door frames. To check for areas of air loss, you can simply move your hand around the framing and note any areas where you feel cool air coming through. These are the spots that will need sealant or weatherstripping added.

Insulate your attic space

Many homeowners may also not be aware of how much heat loss takes place through their attic and roof. If you don’t have adequate insulation installed at the top of your home, warm air from inside your living space will rise and escape.

Now is a great time to have your home inspected by an insulation expert. He or she will evaluate your current insulation and determine whether more should be added to help prevent heat loss.

Bonus tip for extra cold days!

On days when the temperature is unbearable outside, cover mail slots or pet doors with a thick towel to prevent cold air from getting in. If you don’t have storm doors installed to protect your entryway or side doors, it may also be a good idea to add a towel at the base of these doors to prevent the cold air from seeping into your home.

Maintain your furnace.

Schedule a tune-up

If you haven’t already done so this heating season, schedule an appointment for a furnace tune-up. During this maintenance appointment, a skilled and experienced professional will look at the working components inside your unit to be sure things are clean (free of dirt and dust buildup) and working as expected. If a problem is detected, it can be addressed before it results in an untimely and expensive breakdown of your heating system during the dead of winter.

Replace your air filter

You should replace your air filter monthly, more often if you have pets or smokers in your home. The role of your filter is to prevent airborne pollutants such as dust, dander, pet hair, etc. from getting pushed out by your furnace and into your home’s ducts and living space. When the filter is dirty, the furnace has to work harder to push warm air through, which could lead to an unexpected breakdown of the unit.

Also, a dirty air filter isn’t just bad for your heating system, but it could also cause problems for your home’s indoor air quality. This isn’t something you want to hear if you or a family member suffer from respiratory problems or allergies.

If you aren’t sure what replacement filter you need, check your owner’s manual, or check the current filter (if it was properly installed), and make note of the specifications listed on the frame. You can use this information to purchase your replacement filter online or at your local home improvement/hardware store.

Check your vents

Along with making sure your furnace is tuned up and your air filter is clean, now is also a great time to check all the vents in your home to be sure there isn’t anything obstructing air flow from them. This means that there shouldn’t be any furniture, rugs, curtains, or tables resting against or on top of them. These things could prevent warm air from your furnace from making it into all areas of your home.

Change your thermostat’s batteries

If your thermostat is battery-powered, check to make sure that they aren’t nearing the end of their usable life. If it’s been a while since you’ve replaced the batteries, swap them out with new ones just in case. If your batteries are nearly dead, your thermostat may start to send a weakened signal to your furnace, and it may not be able to properly tell it when it should cycle on/off.

Also, if you have a thermostat that is wired, take the wall cover off and examine the wires to be sure there isn’t any warning sign of damage, such as fraying. If you see any frayed wires, contact a professional for assistance immediately as this could lead to a fire in your family’s home.

Prepare a winter emergency kit.

For your home

Have the following emergency items on-hand in case you lose electricity in your home this winter:

  • Flashlight
  • Candles (either standard or battery-powered)
  • Portable radio to check for news and weather updates
  • Spare batteries
  • Enough canned or non-perishable food items, and clean drinking water, to last several days for your family
  • Extra blankets and cold-weather clothing in case you are without heat for a while
  • Power bank(s) to charge cell phones, laptops, and tablets
  • Stocked first aid kit (bandages, gauze, pain reliever, thermometer, tweezers, sterile gloves, etc.)

For your car

Make sure that the emergency kit in your vehicle is ready and well-stocked for the winter ahead in case you become stuck during bad weather. You should keep the following items in your kit:

  • Road flares
  • Flashlight with spare batteries
  • Power bank to charge your cell phone
  • Blankets and extra cold-weather clothing to help keep you warm in case you are waiting a while for help
  • Kitty litter to assist with tire traction (it may also be helpful to have a small shovel in your trunk)
  • Windshield scraper and deicer
  • Stocked first aid kit (bandages, gauze, pain reliever, thermometer, tweezers, sterile gloves, etc.)

Prepare the outside of your home.

Tree limbs and branches

Now is the time to make sure that you’ve trimmed back tree limbs or branches that may be hanging over your home’s roof, storage shed, or garage. It’s not uncommon for weakened branches to break off during a snow or ice storm, and broken/falling branches could damage these structures.

Additionally, even though you aren’t using your air conditioner right now, make sure to maintain at least two feet of clearance around the outside condenser. This means you may need to trim back bushes or tree limbs that are too close to the unit. These things could cause damage during a storm, as well.

Check for concrete cracks

Look at your sidewalk, driveway, patio, pool deck, and other concrete surfaces around your home. If you notice any cracks or uneven areas, now is the time to get them repaired — before heavy snow and ice make the problems even worse. You don’t want loved ones and visitors to your home to accidentally trip and fall because of damaged concrete.

One last tip…

After you’ve prepared the inside and outside of your home for winter, consider enrolling in the Heating System Repair Program for extra protection in case of an unexpected furnace breakdown! Have questions or want to learn more? Call us any time at 855-800-5195, or you can chat with a customer service representative by clicking the Live Chat tab on the right side of the page.