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So make sure it's in working order as the cold weather sets in. In all cases, Snead recommends checking your heating unit to make sure that all filters are changed and servicing is up to date. To avoid the buildup of any combustible byproducts in your home, ensure the unit is venting properly. While you're at it, install your smoke and carbon monoxide detectors. Finally, servicing your furnace for winter might mean having someone come out in the fall. While paying for maintenance can be annoying, it's better than having your heating system die and leave your family shivering.

How to Prepare Your Home for Winter

Once your furnace is working properly, your next step is to efficiently control the heat that comes out of it. Avoid this problem, and save energy, by installing a programmable thermostat.

How to Blow Out Your Home/Cabin Plumbing For Winter

You can set this smart device to run your heating system at different temperatures during the day. While you could make these adjustments manually, a programmable device will be more reliable. To help out your thermostat and heating system, make sure the heat stays in: Seal up any drafts like the ones that plagued my old apartment.

You'll mostly find these around your windows and doors. For windows, you can seal them up with temporary caulk or an inexpensive plastic window insulation film. During cold winters in Boston, that thin film kept my apartment much warmer than it would have been without the seal. While sticking it into place can be a little tricky, the process is straightforward and requires only a hair dryer. Use it under sinks, in attics and crawl spaces, and on pipes along exterior walls.

Pay special attention to basements, where 37 percent of all burst pipes occur. Insulate Your Attic or Crawl Space Spending money to insulate your attic—exactly how much insulation you need varies by temperatures in your region—will save you money in the long run in two ways. Service Your Furnace and Chimney Fireplaces, chimneys, and heating equipment are some of the biggest causes of home fires, according to the Consumer Product Safety Commission.

Have them serviced and inspected annually. Make sure the inspector examines the condition of the chimney—brick periodically needs upkeep to prevent water from leaking in—as well as the cap, which keeps heat-seeking animals out. Swap In Storm Windows Remove and store all window screens. Install glass storm windows, creating an insulating layer of air between your windows and the cold outside air.

These also provide an added layer of protection against driving rain and snow during a heavy storm, even if you have newer, double-paned windows.

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Repair Loose Roofing Shingles If you suspect your roof has loose, damaged, or missing shingles, have a licensed roofing contractor do an inspection and make repairs before the first snow. According to the IBHS, a single cubic foot of snow or ice can weigh 20 to 25 pounds. That pressure can cause loose shingles to shift further, allowing water or moisture to permeate your roof and leak into your home. Clean and Inspect Gutters Clogged gutters can cause water to back up and then freeze once temperatures drop. Keep gutters clear and properly connected to ensure that melting snow runs off your roof and through downspouts.

Repair patios and pavers. A loose patio stone or paving stone will only get worse over the winter as the natural freeze and thaw cycle of the soil hoists it farther out of place in a process called frost heave. Have loose stones reset by a mason or handyperson in the fall. If you act soon, you'll minimize the chance of being th in line for repairs on the coldest day of the year.

The contractor should follow the protocol for ACCAs "national standard for residential maintenance" or the QM, short for "quality maintenance". If your ceiling fan has a reverse switch, use it to run the fan's blades in a clockwise direction after you turn on your heat.

10 Tips to Get Your House Ready for Winter - Consumer Reports

Energy Star says the fan will produce an updraft and push down into the room heated air from the ceiling remember, hot air rises. This is especially helpful in rooms with high ceilings -- and it might even allow you to turn down your thermostat by a degree or two for greater energy savings. If your home had lots of icicles last winter -- or worse, ice dams, which can cause meltwater to back up and flow into your house -- take steps to prevent potential damage this year.

A home-energy auditor or weatherization contractor can identify and fix air leaks and inadequate insulation in your home's attic that can lead to ice dams. Your state or utility may offer a rebate, too. Or at least scan it closely with binoculars.

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Check and repair breaks in the flashing seals around vent stacks and chimneys, too. If your roof is flat and surfaced with asphalt and pebbles, as many are in the Southwest, rake or blow off fall leaves and pine needles, which hold moisture, says Bill Richardson, past president of the American Society of Home Inspectors, in Albuquerque.

Don't sweep aside the pebbles; that will expose the asphalt to damaging sunlight. Richardson says that if the gaps between siding and window or door frames are bigger than the width of a nickel, you need to reapply exterior caulk.

How to prepare your home for winter

Check the joints in window and door frames, too. Check window-glazing putty, too which seals glass into the window frame. Add weatherstripping as needed around doors, making sure you cannot see any daylight from inside your home.

If your gutters are full of detritus, water can back up against the house and damage roofing, siding and wood trim -- plus cause leaks and ice dams. Also look for missing or damaged gutters and fascia boards and repair them. Add extensions to downspouts so that water runs at least 3 to 4 feet away from the foundation, says home-improvement expert David Lupberger.

Undrained water in pipes can freeze, which will cause pipes to burst as the ice expands. Start by disconnecting all garden hoses and draining the water that remains in faucets. But call in a professional to do the job.