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Winterizing Your Home in a Few Simple Steps

House hunting in cold weather.

Winter isn't without its charms — after all, who doesn't appreciate watching snow gently fall? Yet cold weather often brings its own set of problems for homeowners, who must battle the elements in an effort to keep their houses warm and in excellent shape.

With that in mind, here are a few simple steps you can take to help your home stay beautiful — and you stay comfortable.

Give your house a thorough winter inspection

Check your attic, basement and gutters for leakage. It's also a good idea to examine roofs and chimneys — are your shingles in adequate shape? Are there any obstructions in the chimney? Probe the exterior of your home for gaps or wear and tear that occurred over the summer and fall.

Consider installing thermal windows

They might be more expensive than other options, but thermal windows are usually more efficient than standard windows. They can keep your home warmer, and pay for themselves eventually in lower heating costs.

Run your ceiling fans backwards

While it might sound hard to believe, running your ceiling fans in reverse pushes the warm air that has risen back down. This warm air is then re-circulated throughout your home, which could lower heating costs. This solution is quite simple, too, as most high-end fans have a switch that will reverse the direction of the blades.

Buy a smart thermostat

While it seems virtually everything earns the "smart" designation these days, these advanced thermostats live up to the hype by making energy efficiency easier than ever. Smart thermostats have the ability to detect whether you're home or away, and adjust accordingly. They'll also send you a detailed report on your patterns of use to help you achieve an optimal heating and cooling atmosphere.

Break out the storm doors and storm windows

The installation of storm doors and storm windows, particularly newer Energy Star-certified models, is an easy way to boost energy efficiency. Even better, you may qualify for a federal tax credit to defray the costs of purchase and installation.

Keep gutters clear of debris

There are few things more wondrous to behold than fall leaves in all their striking beauty — at least until they end up clogging your gutters. If water can't flow unimpeded, you run the risk of huge, dangling icicles and other problems. Clean your gutters thoroughly before the weather turns too chilly.

Change your filters with regularity

Dirty filters make your cooling and heating system work harder than necessary. This leads to lower efficiency and could necessitate a system overhaul earlier than expected. As a general rule, inspect and change filters at least every 30 days.

Locate and eliminate any drafty doors or windows

During the winter months, drafts are an energy efficiency killer. Weatherstrip doors or seal windows with self-stick sealing products. Window film will also help insulate windows, and layered curtains are another good option.

The takeaway

The winter months can negatively impact energy efficiency and even cause damage. Yet by taking a few simple steps to winterize your home, you can mitigate the risks presented by cold, wet weather.

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