NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- With the calendar's flip from October to November, the official start of winter is only seven weeks away. But for much of the U.S., the temperature will be dipping into the 30s on a regular basis much sooner, and that's a potential problem for homeowners; cold weather can be one of the most destructive forces in Mother Nature's arsenal. To the rescue rides New Jersey American Water, a utility and services company with tips to keep homes warm and dry in the coming months. "We encourage homeowners to take special care to insulate their pipes from freezing weather to avoid property damage," says Bill Varley, president of New Jersey American Water. "By weatherproofing your home you can save money on your winter energy bills and guard against potential breaks and leaks in your indoor plumbing. Just a few precautionary steps can save you major headaches in the long run."
Those major headaches can add up to $15,000 in costs -- the average insurance claim for frozen pipes reported by State Farm Insurance. To avoid freezing pipes and other cold-weather threats, take the following steps to safeguard your home: Know where your shut-off valve is. If there is an emergency, you need to know where to go to turn the water off. It's a good idea to stick a tag on the valve to make it more easily identifiable. Make sure your water pipes are "covered." If you have water pipes in your home that are uninsulated or lie in an unheated area (such as in a crawlspace or unfinished basement), wrap some heating tape around the pipe to protect them from freezing weather. Close down drafts. Cold air has a habit of finding its way into an unprotected home, so cover up exposed areas by sealing windows, insulating walls and attics and closing off crawlspaces.
Air out your gutters. Make sure your gutters and downspouts are leaf- and debris-free. Both can freeze up and clog if they're cluttered and dirty. Traveling? Let your water company know. If you're away for the winter or traveling for long periods, call your local water and utility company and have your water shut off altogether. It's also good to hire a plumber to drain your water pipes. If there's no water in the pipes, they can't freeze and break. Another tip: On especially cold days, open cabinets in the kitchen, den or basement to allows warmer air to reach your water pipes. Finally, New Jersey American Water notes that homeowners are responsible for frozen water meters, so make sure yours is covered or insulated in the winter months to avoid damage. Mother Nature is coming to cold-weather states, and there's no stopping that. What you can stop is damage to your water pipes that could cost tens of thousands of dollars to fix -- putting a freeze not only on your home, but on your pocketbook.