Is Your Home Ready for Winter?


1. When is the best time for a home heating system inspection and tune-up?

A fall or early winter tune-up can save you money by making your system run more efficiently and fixing small problems before they turn into major breakdowns.

2. Which of these household items can make icy sidewalks and driveways safer to walk on?

Salt is the traditional way to melt ice on walkways, although experts say too much salt can harm plant roots, pets, and wildlife. Inexpensive play sand adds traction without harming pets or plants, though it will linger until you clean it up. Non-clumping cat litter can also work in a pinch. Electric mats can be a worthwhile investment for keeping steps and high-traffic pathways ice-free.

3. How much does it cost to keep an outdoor faucet from freezing and bursting?

Foam covers that insulate hose faucets from freezes are a bargain, especially compared to the cost of a plumber's visit to fix a burst pipe in your wall. Pick some up now and you can leave them in place from first frost till spring thaw.

4. When should you have your trees trimmed?

Don't wait for downed limbs and property damage to call in the tree crew. Removing damaged and overhanging branches can prevent costly storm damage to your home — and your neighbors'.

5. How often should you have your fireplace chimneys cleaned?

The National Fire Protection Association recommends yearly cleaning and inspection of home fireplaces and chimneys, and fall is an ideal time to do that. The Chimney Safety Institute of America also recommends cleaning when soot builds up to 1/8 inch or more in open-masonry chimneys. If you use your fireplace a lot during the winter, talk to your chimney sweep about the proper cleaning schedule.