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Ready or not: Prep your home now to withstand winter

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Winter is here. That's not just a reference to the HBO television series "Game of Thrones." With the bouts of snowfall recently, the realization that winter is upon us has dawned on many.

If you're one to plan far in advance, you may have your home already prepped and ready to endure the sub-zero temperatures set to descend on us in the coming months. But if you haven't, you still have time to prepare for the onslaught of wintry winds and blowing snow, thanks to the list below.

• Schedule a professional check. Calling on individuals who specialize in heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) as well as plumbing will ensure a thorough examination of any potentially major issues that could occur when you are least prepared.

• Change your furnace filter. Homeowners often forget to change a filter as regularly as they should during the summer months when no heat is used. However, a filter free of debris means a more efficient heating system.

• Keep your vents clear. Glen Wanner, the HVAC service manager at Home Heating, Plumbing & A/C, Inc., in Fargo, says ground-level vents should be checked throughout the winter season after snowfall to ensure the air intake is clear. Move any furniture that may block intake or encourage snow to accumulate near the pipe. While furnaces are equipped with a locking mechanism in case of obstruction, Wanner says homeowners still need to be vigilant about checking where blowing snow may collect.

• Check for drafts. Doors and windows are the likely culprits (and often easily fixed with plastic or caulk) but you should also check ductwork and doorstops at entry points. Add or replace weatherstripping where needed, and install storm windows and doors if you have them.

• Add insulation. Even new homes need to be inspected for adequate insulation to prevent air leaks and keep heating costs low. Proper insulation is most important in the attic and around the home's plumbing systems, as well as the basement. Consider wrapping pipes in the basement and adding an insulated blanket to your hot water heater.

• Disconnect hoses from the house. Tony Gray, plumbing service manager at Home Heating, Plumbing & A/C, Inc., highlights this as one of the most crucial things for homeowners to do in preparation for winter. If hoses remain connected to the house, water will remain in the 12-inch pipe and can burst.

• Switch sump hoses to city sanitary sewer drains.

• Blow out irrigation systems. For a minimal fee, you can ensure your sprinkler system is free of water that can cause damage you won't likely find until you need to use your irrigation system come spring.

Don't forget to:

• Locate where main water shutoff is. Should a pipe burst, your home's water supply needs to be turned off immediately to prevent further damage. Gray says everyone who is able should know where that main water shutoff is located in the house.

• Clean gutters to prevent leaks and ice dams.

• Open cabinets in the kitchen and bathroom. This allows warm air to circulate around pipes during especially cold spells.

• Have your roof checked. Make sure your home's roof is capable of withstanding the weight of snow.

• Close your fireplace flue when you aren't using it.

• Reverse your ceiling fans. According to Energy Star, running fans clockwise pushes heated air into the room, which is especially helpful in homes with vaulted ceilings.

Danielle Teigen

Danielle Teigen has worked for Forum Communications since May 2015. She is the features editor who also manages digital and sponsored content. She first worked for the company in 2007 as an intern and part-time reporter. She later served as editor for two local magazines and in marketing and public relations roles for an engineering firm and the chamber of commerce. She is originally from Turton, S.D.

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