Winter weather can wreak havoc on systems and appliances within your house. If you’re not prepared, the damage can leave you out in the cold—literally. By being proactive about winterizing your home, you can quickly get back to enjoying all the excitement of the season.

Check out the list below for ideas to help you prepare for the winter season.

1. Change your HVAC filters

Unless you know you’ve just changed the filters, it’s a good idea to start the season with a new filter on your furnace. Clogged or dirty filters can lead to inefficient heating and ultimately damage the appliance. Double-check that you’ve installed the filter facing the correct direction and that you’re using the appropriate size. Remember to change your filters every three months.

2. Make sure your heat is working

Now that your filters are refreshed, it’s time to test whether your furnace is actually heating your home. Set the thermostat to ‘heat’ mode and raise the temperature by 3–4 degrees until it turns on. Check the registers on each floor to ensure heat is coming out, listening for any irregular noises.

While you’re inspecting the heat, note any drafty areas that might need insulation. Place your hand near windows, exterior doors, vents, mail slots and anywhere else where outside air might creep in.

3. Clean your clothes dryer vent

According to the U.S. Fire Administration, clothes dryers cause 2,900 fires per year; failure to clean the dryer accounts for 34% of these fires. While dryer vents only need to be cleaned once a year, it’s best to cross this off your to-do list before winter hits.

Signs that your dryer vent needs cleaning include clothes that take a long time to dry, a dryer that gets too hot or if you smell burning. A professional can ensure your dryer vent is properly cleaned and sealed.

4. Create a plan to prevent frozen pipes

Frozen pipes can quickly lead to burst pipes, causing major flood damage. Regularly running water through your pipes helps to prevent pipe damage caused by freezing. Set a reminder to run the water through faucets that might not be used often, such as in a basement bathroom. If your sinks are on an exterior wall, open the cabinet doors to let in more heat.

5. Inspect the fireplace and chimney

Winter is the perfect time to light a cozy fire, but if it’s been a while since you’ve used your fireplace, now is a good time to ensure its safety. Perform a visual inspection for any visible cracks, damage or buildup. A flashlight can help you see into the damper and the chimney flue. Head outside and look for cracks or damage to the chimney. If anything causes concern, call a professional for further inspection.

Stay protected against the winter elements

While home insurance is typically the first line of defense for homeowners, it won’t cover a significant expense such as an appliance breakdown. Additional coverage options help ensure that you won’t be out thousands if disaster strikes.

Larger items that are already in your home, such as ranges, dryers and dishwashers, also need to be checked before winter. Who wants to call for an oven repair on Thanksgiving?  

Truly, it’s not a matter of if an appliance will fail, but rather when. A home warranty or service plan helps to cover the unexpected expenses of home systems or appliance breakdowns. For example, with the addition of a service plan from our partners at Tend, you receive up to $10,000 on covered home systems and equipment so you can breathe easy knowing your home essentials are protected and supported with 24/7/365 service.

Stay protected against unexpected costs brought on by winter by being proactive with your winter to-do list and by exploring additional home coverage options today.