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Fall Into Winter

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When the temperature starts to drop, sweaters and coats do their best to keep you dry and warm throughout the winter season. But forgetting to prep your home for the elements could make this winter very long, not to mention cold and wet.

According to the Insurance Information Institute, winter storms are the third-largest cause of catastrophe losses, resulting in about $1 billion in insured losses a year. Frozen, bursting pipes, cracked roofs and gutters - there are countless ways for winter weather to wreck your home and leave you in the cold. Luckily, these problems are preventable and these six easy tips will keep you and your house warm all winter long.

1. Drain lawn-irrigation systems, pools and fountains to avoid costly damage.

2. To keep indoor pipes from freezing, wrap them with insulation or leave water faucets dripping overnight during cold spells. If you're concerned that a particular pipe will freeze, wrap it with an electric heat cable.

3. For outdoor faucets, turn the water off by using the indoor shut-off valve, then open the outdoor pipes and drain them completely. Leave the spigot open, then top it off with an insulated faucet cover to keep it from freezing.

4. Don't forget to detach garden hoses and take them inside. Water that freezes inside hoses could cause holes, giving you a new kind of "sprinkler" system come spring.

5. Consider adding a second layer of insulation to your attic. If your house is new, it probably conforms to the latest standards, but if not, you may want to add insulation. If there is no flooring over the ceiling joist, adding more is as easy as spreading an even layer of loose insulation. If your attic does have flooring, you may need to insulate between the roof rafters. Keep in mind that humidity will rise and could affect the plywood used for the decking in your roof. Make sure that you have adequate ventilation in the attic, and always keep roof vents unobstructed.

6. To bring electric heating systems and forced-air furnaces up to standards, have them inspected by a professional. It's a good idea to sign a contract for annual heating/cooling maintenance in order to make your system as energy-efficient as possible.