Autumn is the ideal time to get your home ready for winter. The better prepared you home is, the better it will handle the coming inclement weather. Here are a few tips to get started.

Keep your home warm all winter long.

A well-maintained heating system will not only keep you warm, it may also help you save money on your utility bills. 

Test your furnace. Turn the thermostat up and listen as the furnace turns on. If it's running fine, turn the thermostat back down. 

Replace the air filter. Experts recommend changing or cleaning filters once a month during the wintertime to improve the airflow and efficiency of the furnace. 

Have your furnace serviced by a technician, preferably one who will also assess it for wear and tear and will also let you know if it needs repaired or replaced. They will also cleans your vents if necessary. 

If your heating system runs on propane or oil, call your system maintenance professional to check and fill it if needed. 

Reverse your ceiling fans to run clockwise so air circulates downward; this will reduce heating costs by 10%. 

Prepare your cooling system.

You may not need it during winter, but taking steps to maintain your cooling system now will keep it in good working order when springtime brings the heat.

Clean debris from the condensing unit, and use a hose to clear dirt from the an blades and coils. 

Drain hoses and pipes and, if your unit has one, make sure the water shut-off valve is in the "off" position. 

Turn off exterior water spigots, look for water leaks and repair any that you find.

Cover the condensing unit to prevent rust and damage. A breathable waterproof cover can help ensure the unit stays in good condition for years to come.

Remove and store window AC units for the winter. 

Check your insulation.

Keep heat inside your home by checking for a repairing leaks. 

Check your windows, especially the hinges and slides, for leaks. Caulk the sides of your windows and joints if you find leaks. 

Install storm doors and windows, if you have them.

Cover your hot water tank with an insulating blanket to help it run more efficiently. 

Prevent pipes from freezing and causing expensive damage.

According to the Insurance Information Institute, water damage from frozen pipes is among the costliest claims, with the average claim totaling more than $7,000.

Drain exterior faucets and disconnect garden hoses. Store the hoses in a garage, basement or shed.

Cover exposed piping and uninsulated parts of your home using preslit foam, which can be purchased from a hardware or home improvement store. It can be cut to fit the pipe and duct-taped in place. 

If you have a summer home, or a part of your home that won't be used, shut off its water and drain the plumbing system.

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