10 Tips for Winterizing Your Home

The fall Equinox is a good time of year to start thinking about preparing your home for winter, because as temperatures begin to dip, your home will require maintenance to keep it in tip-top shape through the winter.
Autumn is invariably a prelude to falling winter temperatures, regardless of where you live.

Here are ten tips to help you prepare your home for winter:
1) Furnace Inspection
·         Call an HVAC professional to inspect your furnace and clean ducts.
·         Stock up on furnace filters and change them monthly.
·         Consider switching out your thermostat for a programmable thermostat.
·         If your home is heated by a hot-water radiator, bleed the valves by opening them slightly
and when water appears, close them.
·         Remove all flammable material from the area surrounding your furnace.
2) Get the Fireplace Ready
·         Cap or screen the top of the chimney to keep out rodents and birds.
·         If the chimney hasn’t been cleaned for a while, call a chimney sweep to remove soot and creosote.
·         Buy firewood or chop wood. Store it in a dry place away from the exterior of your home.
·         Inspect the fireplace damper for proper opening and closing.
·         Check the mortar between bricks and tuck point, if necessary.
3) Check the Exterior, Doors and Windows
·         Inspect exterior for crevice cracks and exposed entry points around pipes; seal them.
·         Use weather stripping around doors to prevent cold air from entering the home and caulk windows.
·         Replace cracked glass in windows and, if you end up replacing the entire window, prime and
paint exposed wood.
·         If your home has a basement, consider protecting its window wells by covering them with plastic shields.
·         Switch out summer screens with glass replacements from storage. If you have storm windows, install them.
4) Inspect Roof, Gutters & Downspouts
·         If your weather temperature will fall below 32 degrees in the winter, adding extra insulation
to the attic will prevent warm air from creeping to your roof and causing ice dams.
·         Check flashing to ensure water cannot enter the home.
·         Replace worn roof shingles or tiles.
·         Clean out the gutters and use a hose to spray water down the downspouts to clear away debris.
·         Consider installing leaf guards on the gutters or extensions on the downspouts to direct water
away from the home.
5) Service Weather-Specific Equipment
·         Drain gas from lawnmowers.
·         Service or tune-up snow blowers.
·         Replace worn rakes and snow shovels.
·         Clean, dry and store summer gardening equipment.
·         Sharpen ice choppers and buy bags of ice-melt / sand.
6) Check Foundations
·         Rake away all debris and edible vegetation from the foundation.
·         Seal up entry points to keep small animals from crawling under the house.
·         Tuck point or seal foundation cracks. Mice can slip through space as thin as a dime.
·         Inspect sill plates for dry rot or pest infestation.
·         Secure crawlspace entrances.
7) Install Smoke and Carbon Monoxide Detectors
·         Some cities require a smoke detector in every room.
·         Buy extra smoke detector batteries and change them when daylight savings ends.
·         Install a carbon monoxide detector near your furnace and / or water heater.
·         Test smoke and carbon monoxide detectors to make sure they work.
·         Buy a fire extinguisher or replace an extinguisher older than 10 years.
8) Prevent Plumbing Freezes
·         Locate your water main in the event you need to shut it off in an emergency.
·         Drain all garden hoses.
·         Insulate exposed plumbing pipes.
·         Drain air conditioner pipes and, if your AC has a water shut-off valve, turn it off.
·         If you go on vacation, leave the heat on, set to at least 55 degrees.
9) Prepare Landscaping & Outdoor Surfaces
·         Trim trees if branches hang too close to the house or electrical wires.
·         Ask a gardener when your trees should be pruned to prevent winter injury.
·         Plant spring flower bulbs and lift bulbs that cannot winter over such as dahlias
in areas where the ground freezes.
·         Seal driveways, brick patios and wood decks.
·         Don’t automatically remove dead vegetation from gardens as some provide attractive scenery
in an otherwise dreary, snow-drenched yard.
·         Move sensitive potted plants indoors or to a sheltered area.
10) Prepare an Emergency Kit
·         Buy indoor candles and matches / lighter for use during a power shortage.
·         Find the phone numbers for your utility companies and tape them near your phone or inside the phone book.
·         Buy a battery back-up to protect your computer and sensitive electronic equipment.
·         Store extra bottled water and non-perishable food supplies (including pet food, if you have a pet),
blankets and a first-aid kit in a dry and easy-to-access location.
·        Prepare an evacuation plan in the event of an emergency.

By Elizabeth Weintraub, About.com