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One of the responsibilities of an insurance agent is to advise customers how to prevent or minimize damage caused by winter weather. Living in western Pennsylvania, we must prepare for dips in temperature, inches of snow and dangerous ice.

The comforts of a cozy, warm home in winter can help you forget about the short days and the multiple layers of clothing. These tips can help you weather the winter season.

Have your furnace inspected. Your heating system will be running constantly throughout the winter; you should have it inspected annually to help it run efficiently and prevent carbon monoxide from entering your home. Also remember to change out HVAC filters at least twice a year.

Inspect the insulation in your attic and crawlspaces. Warm air rises and leaves the house through the roof, so you should focus on insulation in your ceilings.

Seal potential leaks. Before cold weather comes, take time to insulate your home. Seal areas around recessed lights, the attic hatch and plumbing vents, which may be allowing warm air from the living space below to enter the attic.

Allow for ventilation. Proper attic ventilation, adequate attic insulation and a tight air barrier between the attic and the interior of the house will work together to prevent ice dams.

Use window sheet kits. If you don’t have double-paned or storm windows, pick up a plastic-film sheet kit from your local hardware store. These will only last one year but are able to halt the cold flow of winter drafts.

Apply weather stripping. Add weather stripping to doors and caulk window gaps. Make sure all windows are locked to keep out as much cold air as possible.

Use a fireplace. If you plan to use it, schedule an inspection and service by a professional to make sure your chimney is clear.

Insulate pipes. Pipes located in attics, crawlspaces, basements and near outer walls can be susceptible to freezing in extreme temperatures. When the forecast calls for unusually cold temperatures, let water drip from hot and cold faucets overnight, and keep cabinet doors open to allow warm air to circulate in places like below sinks.

Consult your local utility company about an energy assessment to determine where your home is losing energy and what energy-smart investments would make sense.

There are also things to do outside to protect you home:

Tool checkup. Make sure your snow shovels are free from cracks. Schedule the annual tune-up for your snow blower if you have one.

Winterize outdoor faucets. Remove all hoses or devices attached to outdoor spigots. Be sure to drain any water left behind in pipes. Have in-ground sprinkler systems blown out and turn off water to outdoor spigots.

Clear any landscape debris and waste. Remove any debris or branches from around the HVAC unit, gas meters, away from basement windows and your dryer exhaust vent. Cut back dead or dying limbs and any branches that can touch the roof or siding. When it’s windy, branches can rub or scratch the surfaces of your home and cause damage.

Visually inspect your roof. Look for any missing or damaged shingles. Ensure that all gutters are clean and securely attached to help prevent ice dams.

Winter will be here before we know it. Take advantage of nice fall weather and follow these simple tips to be warm and cozy when winter comes.

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