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The chill in the air, the crunch of fall leaves, the return of our beloved pumpkin spice… Autumn is certainly back in full swing as we move toward the holiday season. Many of us are quite fond of these seasonal shifts, though they do not come without their challenges, especially as winter draws nearer. While we may not have to worry about winter for more than a few months, the dropping temperatures are still cause for concern. Before winter sets in, it is a good idea to prep your home for the colder months and freezing temperatures to prevent any damage or hazards from arising. Follow these simple steps to winterize your home so you can cozy up worry-free this holiday season!

Maintain Your Heating System

Your heating system is a critical component of your home and helps to keep you warm, comfortable, and safe during those colder months. The first step is to check your air filters and make sure they are cleaned out. Dust and dirt accumulate over time in the air filters and can inhibit the full flow of air as well as decrease the air quality circulating through your house. By cleaning the air filters, you can prevent unwanted allergens from being fed into your home and can even lower your energy bill by as much as 15%. When you take the filters out, make sure to wash them and allow them to dry completely before putting them back to prevent the development of mold and mildew.

In addition to keeping the air filters clean, you will want to also have regular preventative maintenance done on your heating system by an HVAC technician. Having your heating unit inspected and maintained professionally will keep it running efficiently and confirm it is not experiencing any major problems. When choosing an HVAC professional, look for a licensed HVAC technician to ensure the highest quality of work and expertise. These professionals have taken the time and care to gain essential academic knowledge in this field and have devoted necessary time to learning the ins and outs of the heating industry.

If you use a traditional fireplace or wood stove, it is important to have these elements inspected as well. Over time chimneys become home to soot, debris, and even animal nests, so it is important to have the chimney cleared and cleaned before lighting the first fire of the season. A chimney sweep is a professional that can thoroughly clean the chimney and identify any hazards that you may be unaware of. An annual inspection like this can keep you safe and warm all winter long.

Winterize Your Pipes

It’s no secret that when water freezes, it expands. You can easily see in a glass that ice takes up more space than water. The same principle applies to the pipes in your home. If the water inside gets cold enough that it becomes solid, the now-frozen water expands and can actually cause the pipes themselves to burst. The freezing point of water is 32 degrees Fahrenheit, so it is critical to make sure that your pipes are prepped for temperatures this low.

There are 2 primary considerations with winterizing the pipes in your home: blockages and insulation. Blocked pipes are much more prone to cracking and bursting, so they should be inspected for any potential blockages that could become problematic as temperatures drop. Once blockages are cleared, you can insulate your pipes to keep them from experiencing the effects of the freezing temperatures. The most common options include tubular pipe wrap, rolled pipe wrap, and insulation fittings, all of which can be installed yourself. In addition to insulating, it is recommended to keep a steady stream of water running through the pipes when temperatures fall below freezing to help guard against freezing and bursting. You can also open cabinet doors for kitchen and bathroom sinks to help warm air circulate around these pipes and minimize the risk of freezing.

Get Your Roof Ready

The summer months don’t bring much rainfall, let alone snow, so it can be difficult to tell if there are any leaks or drainage problems with your roofing system. Fall is the time to inspect your roof, either yourself or with a professional. If you are conducting the check yourself, you will want to buy some non-slip sole shoes to safely traverse your home’s roof. Once up there, inspect the roof shingles and tiles to determine if there are any broken or damaged shingles that need to be replaced. Unrepaired roof shingles can lead to leaking during rainy or snowy weather, and can also decrease the level of insulation in your home as cold air seeps into these holes.

The gutters are another important component of the roofing system. Gutters help to drain rainwater and melting snow off of the roof back to the ground. Unfortunately, they can easily become a collection spot for leaves, sticks, animal nests, and more, which blocks the flow of water. Cleaning out your gutters is an easy way to keep water flowing and prevent drainage issues during inclement winter weather. Make sure to clear this type of debris build up from the roof itself as this constant weight can cause excessive wear and tear on the roof, shortening the life of the roof itself.

The attic is often a forgotten part of the roofing system since it is relatively out of sight. However, this part of the house can cause serious issues if it is neglected for too long. Water leaks commonly begin in the attic space, so inspecting for cracks, holes, and other deterioration can help minimize the risk of leaks or flooding in rainy seasons. You’ll also want to make sure the attic is properly ventilated to prevent the buildup of moisture, which can quickly evolve into mold and mildew. Additionally, the insulation can experience greater wear and tear if it is an unfinished attic, so make sure you check the quality of the insulation each year and replace it as needed. This can help keep your home warmer overall and reduce your energy expenses.

Review Your Insurance

While not a physical step, reviewing your home insurance before winter can be a smart move. House fires are most common during the winter months as people cook large holiday meals, crank up the thermostat, and toss log after log into the fireplace. No one plans for a house fire, so you want to be prepared in the event of an accident or emergency. Contact the personal lines insurance team here at Nicholson & Associates for a complimentary review of your home insurance policy to make sure you have all the coverage you need to be properly protected. We are here to help make sure you stay safe and covered throughout the winter season!

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