BBB's 7 Tips To Prepare Homes, Cars For Winter

The BBB has seven tips to help consumers prepare for winter emergencies.

Falling leaves and the chill in the air should be a signal to prepare your home and car for winter. The Better Business Bureau has seven tips to help you winterize your home and prepare a cold weather kit for your car.

We advise consumers to take time now to check your home for leaks and put together emergency supplies.

  1. Furnace checkup and cleaning: Clean or replace your furnace’s air filters. Have a professional check the furnace and ensure the thermostat and other parts are working properly.  A typical home furnace reaches the end of its useful life after 15 years and may need repair or replacement. A computerized thermostat can save energy and money by reducing the temperature at night or when you’re away from home.
  2. Consider insulating heating ducts: The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) estimates that a centrally-heated home can lose as much as 60 percent of warmed air before it reaches vents if the ductwork is poorly connected, not insulated, or if it travels through unheated spaces.  Use a vacuum cleaner to remove dust and dirt from vents.
  3. Get a chimney checkup: Before lighting the first fire of the season, your chimney should be checked for animals, nests, leaves and other debris, as well as for any necessary repairs.
  4. Check smoke and carbon monoxide detectors: Homeowners should routinely test these devices to make sure they work and install fresh batteries as needed.  Detector units should be replaced every 10 years.
  5. Clear gutters and ridge vents: Clean gutters to prevent or remove any debris that could cause rainwater to clog, freeze and damage gutters. Ridge vents should be cleared to allow the house to “breathe” properly to eliminate stagnant inside air.  Close any attic vents or windows that would allow heated air to escape and cold air to seep in.
  6. Plug holes: The average American home may have many small air leaks. Though they may not be large, they have a cumulative effect on home heating costs. Make sure windows close tightly. Check for leaks around them, and use caulking to plug the leaks. Inspect all weather stripping for cracks and peeling.  In addition, consider applying insulating film to drafty windows, and install a tight-fitting fireplace door or cover to stop a day-long loss of heat through the chimney.
  7. Final preparations: Test your snow blower to find out whether there is a problem now rather than waiting until a storm hits. Prepare your snow-clearing equipment, such as shovels, salt or other ice-melting products. Finally, don’t forget to drain outside faucets and remove hoses to prevent the pipes from freezing.
  8. Car checkup: Make sure you have ice scrapers, blankets and other cold-weather gear in your car. Have a mechanic check fluid levels, including the coolant, to be sure reservoirs are full and able to withstand freezing temperatures. Do windshield wipers need to be replaced?  Are defrosters and heaters working? Is there enough tread left on the tires for safe driving? Are they inflated properly?

For more consumer tips, go to the BBB website  or check a company's BBB Business Review.

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