Our BerkshireTimes Magazine Holiday Issue, 2017

Page 14

home & garden


iving in Northern New England can be a very chilling experience, especially in areas where the temperatures fall below zero. Did you know the most important home investment you can make is preventing damage from frozen and burst pipes? We recommend following these guidelines to save money and keep safe and warm this winter.


supplier to turn on your furnace and propane heaters to verify that they are in good working order before they leave your property.

On the cooler side - Air conditioners need attention too.

Prevent damage from frozen and burst pipes. 1. Keep the temperature inside your home at 55◦F or above

Partially cover freestanding units, ensuring they can still breathe. For window units, cover them tightly and caulk the gaps between the unit and the frame to prevent leaks. Or, remove them altogether until the nicer weather arrives. If you have a home air exchanger it also needs a filter change and cleaning.

2. Leave faucets on with a tiny trickle of water when

Look up - It’s also important to inspect your roof. If you don’t

even when you are gone.

3. 4. 5. 6. 7. 8.

temperatures drop below zero. Locate the main water shutoff valve before you need it. If you do not have it already, add insulation to your crawlspace or basement when the weather warms up. Install battery-powered leak alarms (around $15 each). Make sure that your sump pump is working. Make it a habit to check pipes for tiny leaks before they become major issues. Look for pipes exposed to cold (especially hidden pipes in unheated attics, basements, crawlspaces, and garages), then insulate them before they freeze and burst. Check with your local home supply store for heated pipe wrapping, especially if the pipes are in an exposed crawlspace.

Seal the deal - The easiest way to keep the heat inside your

home is to seal air leaks, particularly if you live in an older home. Mass Save offers no-cost home energy assessments to help homeowners make home improvements that save money, electricity, and heating fuel. CET (www.cetonline.org) currently conducts Mass Save’s energy services in Western Massachusetts. You can also hire a professional to test your home for leaks for about $150. To do it yourself, ensure the caulk around windows and weatherstripping around doors is in good condition, and replace where necessary. For unused or older windows, seal them using a plastic window-sealer kit, available from most hardware stores for about $20. Installing storm windows will also give you another layer of protection from the elements.

Get ready to heat - Furnaces should be checked every year especially if you live in the Berkshires where they get a real workout during blustery winter days. Have your furnace serviced yearly to change the filter and nozzle in the burner to make sure it’s working as efficiently as possible. For those using oil, the annual checks may be tied into your contract with your oil provider – call to see if you qualify for a free furnace check. Top off your oil furnace and propane fireplace tanks before the snow and ice come. Ask your 14

Holiday Issue, 2017 | www.OurBerkshireTimes.com

have a ladder, use binoculars to visually inspect the roof, making sure there are no sagging or missing shingles. Alongside the house, ensure gutters and eaves troughs are clean. You can have your eaves troughs cleaned professionally. Or you can invest in the Gutter Blaster, an eight-foot extension for your garden hose. The U-shaped end fits into the trough and blasts out unwanted build-up using the regular pressure from your hose.

Look for holes - Plug every hole you can find. For electrical

outlets, buy liners that fit between the wall and the cover and acts as extra insulation. And even if you don’t have kids, plug the outlets with plastic socket inserts when not in use.

Check your insulation - The largest amount of heat that escapes your house leaves through the attic – almost 45 percent, in fact. So, to prevent your warm air from taking off, ensure your house has adequate insulation. Experts agree that an R-30 rated insulation is the minimum requirement. Pack an emergency kit - Don’t be caught without supplies for you and your family. The Red Cross recommends that every kit include four liters of water per person per day, enough canned food to last for a few days, a first aid kit, blankets, sleeping bags, and a crank-operated radio. Don’t forget the flashlight and extra batteries. You may also wish to consider buying a gas generator.

~ Joyce A. Harsch is a real estate broker who has lived in the Berkshires since 2008. She also has a masters degree in nursing. Joyce and her husband, Paul, live in Williamstown, MA, and own Harsch Associates Berkshire Real Estate. She and Paul blog about real estate interests on a regular basis as a way to reach out to homeowners to help them safeguard their investment in their homes. They also love gardening, wildlife, and hiking. And of course all things real estate. www.harschrealestate.com

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