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If you’ve been reading the Farmers’ Almanac, you know that a cold and snowy winter is predicted for 2018. Be prepared by making improvements now that could protect your home during our chilliest months.

1. Prevent water pipe freeze-up.

Bitter temperatures in February and March can freeze bare plumbing in the garage, attic, or cellar, leaving you with water flowing from burst pipes after the thaw. To safeguard your home, any space with exposed pipes should be insulated, including entry points in the wall where air might leak in. Insulate the pipes, too. If you have a hydronic heating system (water-filled radiators), be sure antifreeze is added.

2. Install leak alarms.

In addition to smoke and CO2 alarms, consider an early warning system located where leaking water might pool. For less than $50, a remote water sensor will alert you to take action. If you’re often away from home, you might prefer a leak detector that will automatically shut off the water. A small setup—say, for the laundry room—could cost $70 and up; a whole-house system may run $500 or more.

3. Be prepared with backup power.

While we hope we don’t have any ice storms, these are worse than snow for bringing down power lines. With a standby generator wired into your system, you won’t be left eating cold beans by candlelight if the power conks out. A transfer switch will automatically turn on the generator. They run on natural gas, propane, or diesel, and are rated by output (6-10 kilowatts [kW] will keep most small to mid-sized homes going). Cost: $2,000 to $10,000 plus installation.

4. Prevent ice damming.

The first awful clue that you have an ice dam may be water running down your inside walls. A dam gets its start when snow-melt is blocked from flowing off the roof. It freezes, forcing new runoff to squeeze up under the shingles. If the water leaks through, it can rot roof beams and breed mold. Clearing out your gutters is a must. The best long-term fix is to invest in more attic insulation, so your home heating dollars aren’t being wasted to melt snow on the roof.

If these investments don’t seem affordable, review your insurance.

Do you know what your plan covers? Are you covered for damage caused by a slow leak, or only for problems caused by a single “event?” Will your homeowner’s policy pay for replacement cost, or only for depreciated cost? How easy would it be to pay your deductible, if you had to? These are important questions to ask before an incident causes damage. It is good practice to review policies periodically to safeguard your property in the event of weather-related damage.

The good news is that investing in more insulation, an automatic water shutoff system, or a generator may qualify you for an insurance discount. Through Efficiency Maine, you can also receive up to $2,000 for certain energy upgrades to your home’s insulation or heating system. (Details: www.efficiencymaine.com/at-home/home-energy-savings-program/.) If you’re still short of funds, talk to us. Financing home improvement is one of our specialties – and, mild winter or not, helping our members protect their homes is high on our priority list.