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Sat, May 30

Warm days, frozen nights: Keep the cold from creeping in with 7 easy steps

Making sure gutters are clear can prevent roof damage.
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Making sure gutters are clear can prevent roof damage.

GRAND CANYON, Ariz. — Northern Arizona may be experiencing a warmer — and drier — winter than usual, but there are likely to be many cold days ahead in the new year. Winterizing your home can save a lot of money and misery, especially if you’re prepared before the chill hits.

Snow is often inevitable —even if it hits late in the season. Lowe’s home improvement store recommends buying a snow shovel or snow blower in advance so you won’t be scrambling right before a storm. You may also save some cash by avoiding surge pricing after the storm hits.

While you’re at it, take advantage of one of the warmer days and consider cleaning your gutters. Other than your time and energy, it’s free, and it’ll save you a lot of hassle later. If water can’t flow freely through your gutters, it can form heavy (and dangerous) water dams and icicles, the weight of which can damage both your roof and gutters. And your head, should you be standing underneath one.

Your doors and windows are usually the main culprits for letting cold drafts into your house, even if it seems like they’re sealed tightly. Gaps in windows and doors can also allow warm air to escape, which can drive heating bills up.

HomeAdvisor recommends installing double-paned windows if it’s in your budget. Double-paned windows have a cushion of gas between two panes of glass, which allows for further insulation in both hot and cold weather.

If it’s not in your budget, you can caulk or apply weather stripping to problem areas relatively inexpensively. Even something as simple as rolling up a towel and placing it in front of a door can make a significant difference.

You can also apply shrink-plastic to windows — when heated with a hairdryer, the plastic forms a tight seal but doesn’t impede the view.

Home advisor also recommends replacing the filter in your furnace. Filters are relatively inexpensive (about $10) and according to Home Improvement guru Bob Vila, changing them out regularly can improve the efficiency and longevity of your furnace while eliminating a potential fire hazard.

Speaking of fire hazards, if you haven’t cleaned your chimney in awhile, it’s time to consider it. A clean chimney cuts down on soot that finds its way back into your home. Not only that, but it eliminates a significant fire hazard — soot caked on the walls of the chimney can ignite and engulf an entire home in flames in short order. This job is best left to professionals, though, so you may be out some cash. Any fire department will tell you it’s worth it, though.

If you have an attic, check to make sure it’s insulated, since warm air rises and a lot of heat is lost through attics alone. Fiberglass insulation — the kind that looks a lot like cotton candy — is around $20 per roll at home improvement stores and can save you a lot of money on your heating bills. It’s easy to install yourself, just be sure to wear protective gloves, eyewear and a face mask (all readily found at home improvement stores).

Bob Vila also recommends installing a programmable thermostat to help save on energy costs when you’re not at home. The US Department of Energy says you can save as much as 1 percent on your energy bill for every degree you lower your home’s temperature while you’re away. A $100 programmable thermostat will likely pay for itself within a few months, however, if you’re replacing an older thermostat, it’s probably a job for a licensed electrician because of high-voltage lines.

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