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Plan Well, Retire Well

Saving and investing your money
Winterizing your home

Winterizing Your Home: Your Winter Weather Financial Guide

With Mother Nature being so brutal to all in Illinois and the Midwest last winter, I wanted to get a head start on winterizing my home the last few weekends. Though it would seem as if old man winter might already be here, that doesn't have to stop you from adjusting your home to get it ready for when winter officially comes. Below are some things you can do to your home to prepare it for this upcoming winter:

  • Get your furnace checked – Getting your furnace checked by a technician now could save you from an emergency when it's really cold outside. According to the University of New Hampshire Cooperative Extension, having your heating system cleaned and serviced regularly could reduce your fuel costs by 10 percent or more. When a technician comes to check your furnace they should make sure the pilot light and thermostat are working, check for leaks or cracks as well as the energy efficiency of your furnace. Since furnaces have a lifespan of on average 15-20 years, that leaves plenty of time for problems to develop if left unchecked.
  • Unplug your appliances – If you plan to travel for a week or more, try to unplug appliances to reduce your utility bill. Things like the coffee pot, toaster and the TV don't need to stay plugged in if you're not there. Another option is to purchase a SMART power strip. That way you can keep on the things you want, but turn the rest of the electronics off just with the flick of a switch.
  • Prepare for snow ­­– Research and purchase all of the essentials for your home now. Purchasing these materials now could save you money before they're actually needed and stores have you where they want you. Shovels, snow blowers and rock salt are just a few things to think about.For items you already own, check that they're accessible and ready to use. Consumer Reports recently did two stories on the best shovels and best snow blowers, so if you're not sure of which to get this might be a good option to see what is out there.
  • Add weather stripping – In September, Kathy Sweedler wrote about weather stripping and other household maintenance tips. Weather stripping includes things like window insulator kits and foam for your doors and windows. This is one way to keep cold air from coming into your home. Some of these may be two-person projects so make sure you have enough hands on deck to help out, if necessary.
  • Prepare your chimney ­–If you're planning on using your chimney this winter, make sure to get it inspected. According to the CDC, you can ask your local fire department to recommend an inspector or find one in the yellow pages under "chimney cleaning".
  • Get a thermometer – Knowing the temperature of your home may be difficult if you don't have central heat and air. This is one handy tool to purchase to find out how warm/cool your room is this winter. This could also help you identify drafts or rooms that are losing heat quickly.
  • Test your Detectors – It's always good to check your smoke and carbon monoxide detectors twice a year. Why not check them before winter starts? According to the National Fire Protection Association, holiday decorations account for a significant amount of fires during the month of December! 52 percent of December home decoration fire were started by candles!
  • For extra warmth – Consider purchasing a space heater or electric blanket. For some of us, we can never be warm enough and having these items can help. Just make sure they have an auto-shut off switch

Although this isn't a completely comprehensive list, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has a wonderful Extreme Cold Guide you should check out if you want more information. In addition, you'll find last year's Winterizing Your Car: Your Winter Weather Financial Guide here. Just remember, by preparing in advance for any season, you can save yourself the hassle, headache and financial burden you may have to face during those cold winter months.


Until next month,


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