Home-Safe-Home for the Winter Holidays

For a great Christmas and a happy Hanukkah, these six critical steps will keep loved ones warm and cozy

You might be hitting the slopes and planting yourselves indoors with warm drinks and blankets — or doing charity work this Christmas season at your local soup kitchen, pet shelter, or church hall on weekends. Or maybe you’re writing out cards, shopping, catching up on sleep — or chasing after the kids.

No matter what occupies your time and thoughts, your physical home needs tending before temperatures plummet below freezing and stay there.

Some threats, such as falling trees, might be unavoidable — it’s always a good idea to get your trees inspected annually. But many troubles that plague a home can be avoided with just a few hours of care — saving you hundreds in repairs over the long term.

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Here are six basic home-care actions during the frosty season that all of us need to take — to have the best holidays ever this year and keep our families and loved ones safe, cozy, and secure.

1.) Towing the Lines
If you want your lawn to grow back as lush as it was last spring, shut off your external spigots before they freeze. Once that’s off, disconnect your hoses, and open the spigot till the spring. But you’re not done there — if you have a sprinkler system, that is. The lines and other hardware need to be emptied of water, but opening a valve in one place and letting it all drain out is only one of three possible methods, specific to how your sprinkler layout was laid out. Check with the system’s installer if you need further assistance.

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2.) Clearing the Decks
Clogged gutters can be a problem all year. If water can’t drain away from the house, it could leak inside and encourage mold growth. In the winter, though, the same gutters can collect snow and freeze. When melting roof snow or ice can’t drain, it might wend its way inside — a phenomenon known as ice dams — and drip from unsettling places such as ceiling light fixtures. Clearing the gutters of leaves before winter helps your odds of avoiding such scenarios.

Like people, machines don’t run as well when they’re overworked.

3.) Dissuading the Vermin
Ignoring fallen leaves on your lawn wilts the grass and may start blowing off your property and into your neighbors’ yards. But even if you’ve decided to vacation this year and not rake, at least clear the leaves several a few feet back from the house. Mice, spiders and insects love the shelter of a leaf pile and consider the proximity to your domicile an added bonus — and who wants that?

4,) Keeping the Flame
Like people, machines don’t run as well when they’re overworked. When that machine is your furnace or boiler, it will choose to break down altogether when temperatures are in the single digits — not counting the wind chill. Call your heating system’s service company for an inspection before winter really sets in.

5.) Plugging the Holes
Every home allows a smidgen of outside air to come in to replace what’s indoors, even with doors and windows closed. When you can feel cold air slipping in through closed windows or beneath outside doors, though, that’s not part of natural air exchange — and could be costing you significantly more in heating bills. Window insulation kits that use foam or plastic film are available at hardware stores or home centers. Also, various replacement door sweeps and thresholds can help keep drafts out.

Related: You Don’t Need Kids in Order to Love the Christmas Season

If it’s water that’s seeping in, it needs far quicker attention. A water leakage needs immediate attention: Indoor plumbing leakages could result in mold growth if water is collecting in a closed space. Contact your plumber ASAP!

6.) Venting Much?
Although the chimney vents away hazardous fumes and particles, homeowners who know to call for an annual furnace or boiler inspection less often have the chimney cleaned and inspected at least that often. The danger? The more buildup in the chimney’s liner, the greater the chance of fire. More than 20,000 residential fires a year are related to chimneys and fireplaces, according to the Chimney Safety Institute of America (CSIA) — the stealthier killer, carbon monoxide, is also a problem. Besides your municipality’s list of licensed contractors, the CSIA certifies chimney sweeps and technicians for safety.

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