Winterize your home for a cozy, safe season

Your house might be calling out for attention before winter sets in. If you don't listen, you may regret that later.

It's time to winterize your house so that it's a warm, comfortable and safe haven when Old Man Winter strikes. Many homeowners forget basic, but easy maintenance steps this time of year that end up costing more in repairs later. Those emergency calls to get the heater working or fix a flood from frozen pipes can be costly.

It should only take a few weekends to get your house ready for the cold, snow and inclement winter weather. Then you can sit back, throw another log on the fire, and enjoy life.

One good first step is to call in experts to perform a home energy audit to help make your home more energy efficient and save you money. Call your local power company to see if they conduct energy saving assessments. It's often a free service that identifies specific changes to cut back on your energy use, said Estevan Salinas, Home Equity Specialist for Consumers Credit Union based in Lake County with service centers in Lake County and Northwest Cook County.

If these repairs don't fit into your budget now, you could consider a home equity loan or a refinance to free up some cash now to save you money later, Salinas said.

Here are some ways to winterize your house. .

Trim nearby trees

Ice and snow can weigh down branches hanging near your roof, windows or driveway and possibly cause them to break. Falling limbs or trees can harm roofs, siding, gutters, porch railings, decks, cars and unsuspecting passersby.

Clean your gutters.

Clogged gutters can lead to ice dams on your roof when water backs up and freezes near its edge. Water builds and eventually forms dams that block the path of melted snow; water pools and begins to seep into your house and can cause water damage.

Hire an HVAC professional

Before you turn on your furnace, have an HVAC professional do a furnace inspection that will likely include these services: safety check for carbon monoxide, clean motor and fan, clean and replace air filters, check blower operation and inspect gas piping to the furnace.

Replace furnace filter regularly

A dirty filter impedes air flow, reduces efficiency, and could even cause a fire in an extreme case. Consider replacing your disposable filters with reusable electrostatic or electronic ones. They just need a monthly wash, and they're good to go. If your furnace is more than 10 years old, there's a good chance that it wastes a lot of fuel. Consider upgrading to a newer model. .

Check your insulation

You need a minimum of 12 inches of insulation in your attic. Adding more fiberglass insulation can boost the energy efficiency of your home. An insulated home loses a quarter of its heat through the roof.

Hire a chimney sweep

A professional will clean and remove built-up creosole and ash from the interior walls and venting portion of the chimney and also check the exterior for cracks. Add or replace the chimney cap to keep out branches, debris and unwanted four-legged or winged visitors.

Check for leaks

If you detect cold air leaking in, warm air is going out. Your home's small drafts may not seem like a problem, but they can add up to a lot of wasted energy. Seal any gaps around electrical outlets, ducts, windows and doors with weather-stripping, caulk or spray foam.

Purchase a programmable thermostat

The newest thermostats can learn your family's habits and set themselves to keep the house cooler when no one is home and warmer when the house is occupied. You can purchase a more basic programmable thermostat. Prices vary depending on its sophistication.

Wrap your pipes

Cold weather can cause plumbing pipes to freeze and possibly burst causing flooding and costly water damage to your home. Electrical heating tape specifically designed to wrap around water pipes acts like an electric blanket and prevents pipes from freezing. Be sure heating tapes have been approved by Underwriters Laboratories and that they have the UL symbol on them.

Tend to garden hoses

Disconnect, drain and store your garden hoses before the first freeze. A frozen hose can burst an interior pipe; when the water in the hose freezes, it expands, increasing pressure throughout the whole plumbing system.

This article is sponsored by Consumers Credit Union.

For more information, contact Estevan Salina at (877) ASK-CCCU

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