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The Big Chill: A Winterizing Checklist

SEATTLE (Zillow) -- While September brings the first day of fall, October can be the harbinger of the winter and all of its frigid pitfalls. It's best to be prepared for the frost and snow with a few simple tasks that will prevent drafts, frosty windows and every homeowner's nightmare: busted pipes.

A good place to start before tackling problem areas in your home is a home energy audit. This will pinpoint specific places in your house where heat escapes. The U.S. Department of Energy has a do-it-yourself energy assessment, or you can hire someone to do the audit for you.

Ready for winter? Not until you've worked your way through the home-winterization checklist.

Here's the rest of your big chill checklist:

Weatherstripping
Cold air can seep in through those little gaps between your door and the door frame, quickly reversing any effort you take to heat your home. Weatherstripping covers the sides and top of the door and a sweep fills the space between the threshold and door bottom. Hardware stores and home centers sell numerous products in metal, foam, rubber and plastic for this purpose and many can be installed in an afternoon.

Windows
This may be another area where additional weatherstripping or caulk is needed to fill any visible gaps, though that still might not be enough remediation to prevent drafts. While windows add much-needed winter light, they can let out a lot of heat -- up to 12 times more than a wall if they're single pane. Blinds can keep a little heat in, but heavier shades or curtains will minimize heat loss.

Fireplace
Fantasizing about a cozy evening in front of the fire? Your romantic night might be cut short if your fireplace hasn't been serviced. The National Fire Protection Association recommends that chimneys are swept at least once a year.

Furnace
It's also recommended that furnaces be serviced once a year. A heating system can break down at the most inopportune time if it's not serviced. Worse, it can pump carbon monoxide into a home or eventually stop working. While a furnace service can run up to $100, the cost benefits are undeniable, considering the cost of a major fix or replacement.

Ducts
According to the U.S. Department of Energy, a home with central heating can lose between 10% and 30% of its heated air before that air reaches the vents if ductwork is not well-connected and insulated, or if it must travel through unheated spaces.

Pipes
Frozen pipes are a royal nuisance, but with a little effort, many instances can be prevented. The best way to tackle these is to wrap pipes that run the exterior of the home with heating tape. Turn off the water and drain the remaining water at the inside valves. You can also buy insulated covers for additional prevention.

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