The holiday lights are hung, and you’ve got salt down on the walks in advance of the snow — but your winter home maintenance is just getting started.

A winter maintenance routine is an essential part of happy homeownership. Regular upkeep and repairs can reduce your utility bills, protect your investment and make it easier to hunker down during the dark days of January and February in peace while you wait on spring to come.

What You Need to Do to Get Your Home Ready for Winter:

Most of the time, the biggest problem homeowners have is getting started. It can be a little overwhelming to try to figure out what to tackle first, what can wait a little — and what should have probably been done yesterday.

We’re going to make it easy for you. All you have to do is follow this guide:

1. Get Your Heating System Checked Out

Nobody wants their furnace to conk out in the middle of a cold snap, but that’s exactly what can happen if you don’t get a tune-up before the bad weather hits.

It’s fairly inexpensive to have a technician from your favorite heating and cooling company stop by and check the main components in your furnace for wear-and-tear. They can also make sure that your filters are clean and able to do their job and that you don’t have any obvious problems. In the long run, the money you save on unnecessary utility costs due to hidden issues in your heating system will more than compensate you for this minor expense.

2. Get Your Fireplace and Chimney Inspected

A warm, crackling fire is wonderful — but not when there’s a buildup of creosote in your fireplace’s chimney. That can lead to serious problems (and it’s not very healthy for anybody living in the house who might have asthma or allergies, either).

Any fireplace that burns wood or coal needs to be serviced and cleaned at least once a year by a professional. While they’re at it, you may want to ask them to check for problems with your chimney that may need to be repaired and air leaks. There are ways to eliminate that unpleasant draft that your fireplace creates when it’s not in use, and that can help you make some major savings on your heating bills.

3. Check the Smoke Alarms and Fire Extinguishers

When’s the last time you paid attention to the smoke alarms and fire extinguishers in your home? If you’re like most people, it’s been a while since you’ve changed the batteries or looked to see when the fire extinguisher in the kitchen expires.

One good way to remember to check the functionality of these safety devices is to make it a yearly event that you handle either right before or after New Year’s Day. You should also do the same with any carbon monoxide or radon detectors that you have in the home for additional safety.

4. Add a Little Insulation to Your Windows and Doors

Your windows are a beautiful part of your home — but they may also be the biggest culprit behind your rising utility bills. Heat can easily escape through tiny gaps in the frame that you can barely see.

This is a good time to reapply the silicone caulk around the exterior joints of your window frames. You should also consider putting new weatherstripping around your doors to eliminate drafts. If you have a particularly troublesome window or door that always seems to leak cold air simply because of the way it is placed, it may be time to put some plastic up and seal it off for the season.

5. Reverse the Direction of Your Ceiling Fans

Most of us aren’t thinking about our ceiling fans when the temperatures drop and there is snow on the ground, but believe it or not, running your ceiling fans in the colder months can actually help you save on heating costs.

How? It’s as simple as flipping a switch — check to see if your ceiling fan has the option to reverse the direction of the blades to a clockwise rotation. During the winter months, the warm air generated by your heating system naturally rises to the ceiling while cooler air sinks to human level. By switching the direction that your fan blades turn, the cooler air will be drawn upwards, pushing the warmer air near your ceiling down and allowing you to lower your thermostat a degree or two.

6. Turn Off Exterior Faucets and Drain Your Sprinkler System

Undrained water in your pipes can freeze and the ice can eventually cause your pipes to burst. Turn off the exterior faucets to your yard hoses and get a professional to come out and drain the sprinklers.

While this won’t have much tangible effect on your household’s comfort, you won’t have any cause to regret once spring rolls back around and everything is still in tip-top shape.

7. Clean All of the Debris Out of Your Gutters

Remember when we mentioned “things that should have been done yesterday”? This is one of them. If you haven’t already managed to clean your gutters, there’s no time to wait.

When gutters are full of dirt and dead leaves, they can’t do their job. Water can easily back up into your house and creep into your basement. The ice and snow can also damage your roof, your siding and your fascia, so this is definitely something you cannot skip.

8. Mulch the Leaves and Wrap the Plants

It’s definitely time to put the mower away for a while, but you need to run out the remaining gas so that it won’t sit there in the engine where it will eventually break down and cause problems. A good way to do that is by using your mower to mulch any remaining leaves on your property.

Mulching your leaves is environmentally-friendly. It provides a little cover for small animals and beneficial insects and protects the roots of your grass and other plants from the cold. While you’re at it, this is also a good time to wrap your more fragile shrubs and plants in burlap against the winter cold.

It can seem like there’s always something to do when you own a home, whether you’re updating your decor for the holidays or just trying to keep pace with normal maintenance. Don’t be afraid to reach out for help when you need it.

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