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Photo by Diane Deaner at Unsplash

Getting ready for winter is about more than just dragging out your coats, scarves and gloves. You’ve got to make sure your house can manage through the season, too.

Don’t worry — the list of chores isn’t too long or expensive. But getting these things done before the weather gets cold can really help your home mind the weather better, and it can save you some extra money and hassle in the long run.

Here’s a list of things to do and why they’re important:

  1. Check your alarms: Your carbon monoxide and smoke detectors need to be checked to make sure they’re in working order and not too old. If you look at the back of your smoke detector, you’ll see the manufacture date. If it’s more than 10 years old, get it replaced, asap. Why: These detectors save lives: One out of three fire deaths happens in homes without smoke detectors. With furnaces and fireplaces being used in winter, fire hazards increase.

  2. Change your filters: Furnace filters should be changed every three months if you get high quality filters. Check the MERV rating, and get one somewhere around the 11 to 13 range. The higher MERV rating will filter out dust, dander, cigarette smoke and even bacteria. Why: Your furnace needs a filter to prevent dirt, dust and dander from getting into it, causing it to get clogged up or to spew that stuff back into the air you breathe. It’s better for the furnace, and it’s better for you.

  3. Insulate your pipes: Check your pipes in non-heated areas to make sure they are insulated. Don’t turn your heat off when you leave — keep it at 55 degrees or higher. Why: If your pipes aren’t insulated or heated, they will freeze, and frozen pipes often burst on the coldest day of the year. When that happens, you have to call a plumber, and you might even have flooding in your home.

  4. Rake your leaves: Use a rake, a leaf blower or a lawn mower to remove the leaves from your yard or turn them into mulch. Put piles of leaves into your compost pile to have nice, fertile compost next Spring. Why: Leaving your leaves on the lawn will smother your grass over your home ready for winter. Having wet leaves down there can also cause mold and rot to infect your lawn.

  5. Seal your windows: Put a bead of caulk around the drafty areas of your windows, and add weather stripping to the parts that move. You can do the same with your doors, and add a draft snake to prevent more drafts. Why: Drafty doors and windows leak out your money in the form of heat. Keeping the seals nice and tight will ensure you aren’t wasting any of the heat you’re already paying for.

  6. Secure crawl spaces: If you have openings in your crawl space, make sure you fix any holes or loose openings before winter. Make sure crawl space doors are secured with a strong padlock. Why: Criminals can get into crawl spaces and steal copper pipes, as well as listen to the home’s activities for later burglary.

  7. Get your furnace checked: Call an HVAC professional to do an inspection and check that your furnace is working well for the winter. You can also ask him to do a tune-up on it. Why: Making sure all is working well before winter will help prevent parts from breaking down or your furnace quitting in the dead of winter. It also helps spot gas leaks early so they don’t cause fires or carbon monoxide poisoning.

Taking care of these things before the real cold sets in can save you costly repairs down the line, and it helps ensure that you’ll make it through the winter warm and cozy.

If you need more information on preparing your home for winter, check out this guide on air sealing your home.