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article imageOp-Ed: Five things homeowners can do now to prepare for winter

By Alyssa Sellors     Nov 12, 2013 in Lifestyle
When the temperatures drop and the wind begins to blow, we have to work that much harder to keep our homes comfortable and safe.
The three big winter enemies are fire, water, and wind. It is no surprise utility bills spike in the colder months, but there are some things you can do to both winterize your home for efficiency and safety.
#1: Consider energy efficient windows. Most new homes are more energy efficient as ever but older homes may need some upgrades in preparation for the colder temperatures ahead. Making your home more energy efficient reduces utility bills and allows you to control the temperature in your home in a more efficient way. Consider low emissivity windows, with reflective thermal insulation to keep warm air in and cool air out. If you do not have the time or money for energy efficient windows, another option is to caulk around all window sills.
#2: Change the filter in your furnace and check your fireplace. Dust and other allergens are floating around your home, and when winter hits and we spend more time indoors, we also spend more time with these allergens. In addition to the health benefits of changing out your furnace filter, you will also extend the life of your furnace’s efficiency. If you have your furnace inspected, this inspector will also take a look at your fireplace. When it comes to prepping for a season of nights next to a roaring fire, there are a few things you want to do. First, if you have a gas fireplace, make sure you are up to date on your required annual inspection. Next, remove any furniture or other items that may have accumulated at least two feet from the fireplace. Finally, schedule an appointment with a chimney sweep to make sure there are no bird nests or other debris that could cause a chimney fire. This is especially important if you do not have a gas fireplace.
#3: Check your batteries in carbon monoxide detectors. Detectors should be changed yearly so if it has been one year since your last battery check, this is the first thing to do. In addition to changing out batteries, it is also a good idea to check for carbon monoxide leakage when turning on your furnace. In a recent article on when to winterize your home, one heating and air technician comments that “in a lot of the flue pipes is where carbon monoxide tends to slip through. Make sure all your connections to your flue pipes are nice and snug.” Gas leaks on the gas line can be a potential fire hazard so this is an important step in preparing for cooler months ahead.
#4: Clean our gutters. As soon as the leaves of fall have blown off the trees and into your gutters, it is time to clear them out before ice and snow hit. There are a few options to keep gutters clean and free of debris. The first option is to simply hop up on a ladder and clear them out periodically and the other option is to install leaf guards. Other than protecting your roof and gutters, “clean gutters also reduce the risk of infestation and decrease the risk of mold in your home,” says handyman Bob McRedmond in an article featured in The Patriot-News.
#5: Prune back trees. Even if you do not have trees ominously hovering over your roof, it is important to prune back branches and remove dead trees before ice and wind set in. You can do this yourself if manageable but is a safer and more efficient option to hire a company to do it for you. Homeowners should start looking for potential problems early but professional tree companies may see things that the average homeowner may miss, such as disease or insects. If you do not want to cut down or trim back your foliage, there is also another option: cabling, which involves placing steel cables between major tree limbs to reduce stress damage from high winds and excessive ice or snow weight.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of
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