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First winter tips for new homeowners

January 18, 2016
Be sure you know how to protect your home from winter damage.

Being a new homeowner is a time-consuming task. Maybe you haven't even finished unpacking before you're being forced to think about insurance policies, mortgage terms, remodeling ideas, decorating schemes and the dread of home maintenance.

Unfortunately, there's no slacking off on caring for your new house. If you want to avoid expensive repairs or needlessly high utility bills, you'll need to know how to care for your home throughout the year. Winter can pose some specific challenges, as low temperatures and heavy snow can really test your home's defenses. Luckily, mastering these key winter maintenance items can help you stay ahead of any cold weather havoc.

"The typical U.S. family will spend $2,200 or more on utility bills each year.”

Prevent costly energy bills

As U.S. News and World Report noted, one of the costliest mistakes first-time homeowners make is skipping out on energy efficient benefits. Even if the home feels warm, you may have energy leaks that allow your heated air to escape through cracks around doors and windows—effectively throwing money away.

According to the U.S. Energy Department, the typical U.S. family will spend $2,200 or more on utility bills each year. However, simple energy efficiency improvements could cut that cost by as much as 25 percent. The DOE advised taking a whole-house approach to optimizing the home's heating system. In addition to having the furnace serviced regularly, consider any leaks that could be happening as the heat passes through vents and ducts in the HVAC system. You can also eliminate air leaks occurring within the home by upgrading doors and windows, adding additional insulation to the attic or crawl spaces, and installing a programmable thermostat.

Avoid insurance claims

According to IA magazine, one of the most common home insurance claims during the winter is roof damage. Heavy winds and hail can lead to significant harm to a home's roof, which if left unaddressed, may cause problems with water damage to the house's attic or foundation. Unfortunately, many new homeowners do not realize the necessity of checking on their roof throughout the winter.

"Many new homeowners do not realize the necessity of checking on their roof.”

IA advised homeowners do regular visual inspections to look for missing or damaged shingles. Downspouts and gutters should also be routinely cleaned to avoid ice dams that can cause water to backup on the roof. Additionally, any tree branches that could fall onto the roof following heavy snow or ice should be trimmed.

Plan for the next season

It might be hard to think about springtime flowers and sunny summer days when the temperatures are below freezing outside. But spring will come, and you can make your home's transition into the new season much easier by maintaining your outdoor areas even when they're not being used.

According to home improvement expert Bob Villa, cleaning and properly covering patio furniture will protect it from elements during the cold season. Pretreating wooden decks for splintering, decay or insect damage will avoid time consuming repairs later in the year. You also need to check on the grade of your landscaping. Dirt around the exterior of the home should slope away from the house. Otherwise, as snow and ice melt, you could see large amounts of water seeping toward your foundation.