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It’s that time of year when everyone is getting into the holiday spirit. So while you are prepping for the festivities, you may also want to make sure that your home is ready for Jack Frost and Old Man Winter. Preparing your home now can keep you warmer and save you money in the coming months.

Air Leaks

Don’t let a drafty home empty your bank account. Check for air leakage around your windows and doors. You can use caulk, insulating foam and weather stripping to seal cracks around door frames and windows. According to Energystar.gov, homeowners typically save up to $200 a year in heating and cooling costs by air sealing their homes and adding insulation.

Duct System

Leaky central heating and air-conditioning ducts can reduce heating and cooling efficiency. You can seal and insulate the ducts that are accessible to you, such as crawlspace, attic, basement, and garage. You should also make sure that you seal the connections at the vents and registers since leaks commonly occur in these areas.

Fireplace

Wood burning fireplaces may not be an efficient option for heating your home. For a more viable alternative, you may wish to switch to an energy efficient wood stove or gas insert. If you don’t want to update your fireplace and have concerns about costs, you might consider adding glass doors. After use, you can close the glass doors and chimney flue to shut out the cold air. At a minimum, close the fireplace damper after use to reduce heat loss.

Furnace

Check your furnace filter. If it is old or dirty, replace it. A clean filter helps your furnace operate more efficiently. Ideally, you should change the filter once a month, but that may depend on the furnace, type of filter and your use. Consider having your furnace checked by a professional now to ensure that it is in good working order for the winter.

Insulate water and drain pipes

Insulating your water pipes will help prevent your pipes from freezing and bursting. While there are many types of insulation, two common insulation materials are Pipe Wrap and Tubular Sleeve. Pipe Wrap comes in different materials such as regular fiberglass and plastic, foil-backed fiberglass, foil-backed natural cotton, and rubber pipe insulation tape. When dealing with longer pipes, you may want to use foam or rubber tubular sleeve insulation, which comes in six foot tubes.
Don’t forget the outdoor pipes. You should wrap outdoor pipes and caulk around any pipes entering your home. Disconnect garden hoses and turn off the faucet if you have a separate shut off for external faucets. Drain the water from the faucets to prevent freezing.

Clean out gutters and downspouts

Debris in your gutters and drains can cause ice dams that prevent proper drainage. This can lead to water seeping into your home, causing damage to ceilings and walls, and creating an environment for mold. Taking steps to ensure that your gutters and drains are clear can save you the hassle of fixing leaks and can save you money in energy costs.

Lawn sprinkler system

Turn off the water supply and blow compressed air through sprinkler lines to remove water and prevent freezing and bursting of pipes.

Do it yourself or hire a professional?

Most of the simple winterizing projects can be done by you, the homeowner. However, for the larger or more extensive repair or maintenance projects, you may need to hire a professional. Here are some tips for hiring a home improvement contractor:

Make sure the contractor is properly registered with the Office of Consumer Affairs and Business Regulation as a home improvement contractor and also has proper licensure for any other skills, if applicable. You can check the contractor’s registration here.

Ask the contractor for at least three references and check our website to see if there are any complaints against the contractor. You may also want to check the complaint history with the Office of the Attorney General and the Better Business Bureau.

Get It in Writing! For contracts over $1,000, the contractor must provide a written contract. However, we recommend that you get a written contract no matter what the cost of the project is expected to be. The contract should have a total cost and a detailed scope of the work to be completed. A detailed contract will help to avoid any misunderstanding about the project and potential disputes. You can obtain a sample contract here.

Pay no more than one-third of the cost of the contract up front, unless special-order materials are needed.

For other professionals such as plumbers or electricians, you can contact the Division of Professional Licensure.You can also check the contractor’s Construction Supervisor License at the Department of Public Safety.

Finally, after you have taken steps to winterize your home, you should perform radon and carbon monoxide testing. Radon and carbon monoxide gases can increase especially during the winter months. You can purchase a radon test kit at a local hardware store. Check your carbon monoxide detectors to ensure that your weatherized home is safe for your family.
For more information on home improvement contracting, visit our website at:

http://www.mass.gov/ocabr/consumer-rights-and-resources/home-improvement-contract/

 

Resources:

Plumbers and Electricians:

Division of Professional Licensure

1000 Washington Street, Suite 710

Boston, MA 02118

DPL Contact Info: http://license.reg.state.ma.us/public/dpl_contact_info/dpl_contact_info.asp

 

Complaints:

Office of Attorney General

http://www.mass.gov/ago/contact-us.html

617-727-8200

 

Better Business Bureau

http://www.bbb.org/boston/

 

Sources:

U.S. Department of Energy: http://energy.gov/energysaver/weatherize

Tips to weatherize your home for winter: http://www.angieslist.com/articles/tips-weatherize-your-home-winter.htm.

Spend a Weekend Weatherizing Your House: https://www.fix.com/blog/weatherize-your-home-for-winter/.

Easy Winterizing Checklist: http://homerepair.about.com/od/exteriorhomerepair/ss/winterize.htm

 

Winterizing Your Home – 9 Tips to Prepare for Cold Weather.

http://www.moneycrashers.com/winterizing-your-home/

How Do You Winterize Your Home?: http://get.smarter.com/qa/home-garden/winterize-home-39c9a20e462a0cb3?ad=semD&an=msn_s&am=broad&o=32273

Furnace changes: http://www.ehow.com/about_5304204_change-furnace-filters.html

Bob Villa Everything You Need to Know About Winterizing Your Pipes: http://www.bobvila.com/articles/winterizing-pipes/#.VmX1-LeFOXg

Waterpipe Insulation: http://plumbing.about.com/od/basics/a/Water-Pipe-Insulation.htm

Winterizing your homes plumbing:

http://www.twobrothersplumbing.net/winterizing-your-homes-plumbing/

http://www.webmd.com/women/home-health-and-safety-9/winterize-your-home-10-tips

 

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