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Winterizing your home before Old Man Winter arrives will help to lower your fuel costs and give you a more comfortable environment during the long, winter months.

OUTSIDE JOBS

RAIN GUTTERS should be cleaned of leaves, dirt and debris at the first signs of snowfall. This will help to give melting snow a place to go, and also make for easier snow removal.

INSPECT SHINGLES. Fixing broken or cracked roof shingles will keep moisture outside and aid in stopping water damage before it starts.

OUTDOOR WATER FAUCETS should be turned off completely. Be sure to wrap outdoor hoses and store indoors to prevent cracking. It's also a good idea to cover outdoor faucets with some type of insulation. If outdoor faucets cannot be turned off or covered, allow a small amount of water to drip from them during the entire season. This will prevent the pipe from freezing.

Watch for minor CRACKS on the exterior of your home and calk any open or damaged areas with all-weather rubber caulking.

Check for missing or loose SIDING and replace damaged pieces.

Replace summer windows with STORM WINDOWS. Pay careful attention to seals and moldings, and replace any that are damaged or worn.

INSIDE JOBS

WRAPPING WATER PIPES with pipe tape or electrical pipe tape will prevent your pipes from freezing or bursting during cold weather. It's especially important to pay attention to pipes located in non-heated areas such as basements, attics, under trailers and in extra bathrooms. Pipes can be manually wrapped with either electrical heat tape or pipe insulation. If using electrical heat tape, keep all flammable and heat sensitive objects at least 5 feet away from heating unit.

WRAP HOT WATER HEATERS. You can wrap your hot water heater to help retain heat and prevent freezing. Covers (sold by model and style) are available, as is hot water heater tape wraps and heater blankets.

CLEAN FURNACE FILTERS. Change or clean air filters in warm air furnaces. This should also be done monthly through out the heating season. Furnaces should be serviced once a year by a professional. Tasks such as lubricating pumps, fans and motors should be completed before winter's arrival.

Clean BASEBOARD electric and gas heaters by vacuuming baseboards and wiping clean with a damp cloth. A heavy build up of pet hair, dust and even carpet fibers are a potential fire hazards.

CLEAN VENTS (including cold air returns) by removing the metal cover and washing. A vacuum cleaner hose can be placed inside the vent hole to remove dirt, debris, hair and other fibers. Be sure to clean both ends of the vent. One end will be located in your living space and the other is usually found in basement or storage areas.

CHECK CHIMNEY. If you plan to use a wood stove or fireplace, check the chimney for soot buildup. Chimneys should be cleaned prior to reaching 1/4-inch thickness. If you're uncertain as to how to properly clean your chimney with a standard chimney brush, contact a professional.

CLOSE FIREPLACE DAMPERS. Open dampers and vents will cause cold air drafts. Be sure to open all vents and dampers prior to lighting a fire.

SEALS on fireplace and wood stove doors should be replaced if damaged or worn. Fireplace and wood stove doors should seal tightly. Use only high temperature sealants when repairing old seals.

CHECK DOORS AND WINDOWS for drafts or cracked seals. Replace any weather stripping that is damaged or worn. Windows and doors should close tightly. Putty, caulk or weatherstripping can be used to reinforce door and window seals.

GAS HEATERS should be serviced and cleaned once a year (preferably before winter) by a professional. This will ensure there are no leaks and help to keep your furnace operating smoothly. Carbon monoxide detectors should be activated and placed in several different areas of the house prior to heating season.

INSULATION in basement and attic areas should be checked and replaced if packed down, damaged or worn.

Check the BASEMENT area for cracks and leaks in walls and floors. Any damaged areas should be sealed immediately with caulk or putty.


ALTERNATIVE IDEAS

OLDER WINDOWS that don't seal or shut properly can still be winterized. Try using outdoor/indoor plastic molding sheets to cut down on drafts. Plastic molding consists of large pre-cut pieces of clear plastic that is applied to the outside of windows and doors with tape and heat. These are especially helpful in stopping patio door drafts, as well.

You can fill in GAPS under doors with towels, cold air draft stopper pillows or by replacing door footing.

VENTS which do not operate correctly can be replaced with "vent blocks." These magnetic strips fit inside commercial room vents, blocking any air circulation or movement.

Leaving a small amount of WATER RUNNING on especially cold evenings will help to prevent pipes from freezing. Older homes may also need to wrap bathroom and kitchen pipes with electric heat tape to avoid such problems.