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Preparing Your Home and Auto for Cold Weather
By Jason R. Heidkamp, Allstate

Chicago, IL 11/11/05 - As winter approaches, many of us work diligently to prepare both our homes and automobiles for the upcoming cold weather. Early preparation can save consumers the hassle and frustrations of dealing with a burst pipe, ice dams or a car that won't start.

"The winter months can be very damaging to your home and automobiles if you don't plan ahead," says Allstate agent Jason Heidkamp. "By following some simple guidelines and taking some precautions, your home and automobiles have a better chance of surviving the winter intact."

When the temperature falls below 20 degrees and is accompanied by strong winter winds, the potential for pipes freezing dramatically increases. The result is often burst pipes and flooding. This can cause significant damage to your home. You can help prevent pipes from bursting by following these tips offered by Allstate Insurance Company, the American Red Cross and the Federal Emergency Management Agency:
  • Detach all gardening hoses and shut off water supply to outside faucets.
  • Wrap pipes nearest exterior walls and in crawl spaces with pipe insulation or with heating tape.
  • Caulk or weather seal windows to cut down on wind drafts.
  • Tag the location of your main water valve and make sure you can easily turn it on and off.
  • If you have a thermostat that uses a battery, be sure to replace it regularly.
  • Shut off the water supply to your washing machine when not in use.
  • If you plan to travel or be away from home for an extended period of time, ask a friend or neighbor to check your pipes and the temperature in your home.
During a deep freeze, consider the following steps:
  • Try to keep the temperature in your home at 68 degrees.
  • Keep cabinet doors open to allow heat from the home to circulate around the pipes.
  • Check the water flow from all faucets before retiring for the evening and again in the morning. (Reduced water flow can be a sign of early freezing.)
  • Allow your faucets to drip lukewarm water in order to minimize the chances of a pipe freeze.
  • Remember, that a pipe doesn't necessarily burst the first time it freezes. Sometimes it takes several freezes and thaws before damage occurs. However, special care and forethought could help swing the odds in your favor.
Burst pipes are just one of the many problems that old man winter can cause. Ice dams are another source of frustration for many homeowners. Ice dams are ridges of ice that form on gutters, eaves and valleys, and prevent melting snow from running down. Ice dams develop when heat from a roof covered with at least eight inches of snow moves through the roof and melts the bottom layer of snow. As the snow melts, the water backs up and seeps under shingles or tiles and eventually into your home.

Preventing ice dams can be as simple as mounting proper insulation and avoiding improper removal of ice and snow. Here are some additional tips Allstate offers to minimize ice dam formation on your roof:
  • Keep gutters and downspouts clear of leaves and natural debris.
  • Identify areas of heat loss in your attic and properly insulate them to prevent heat from escaping.
  • Minimize heat loss through the attic by wrapping or insulating all heating ductwork.
  • Avoid using sharp tools or ice picks on gutters or downspouts, which can damage roofs. Use a snow rake or soft broom to clear fresh snowfall from gutters.
  • Contact a professional snow removal company to clear existing ice dams.
  • Protect yourself by avoiding falling icicles or avalanching snow. Avoid getting on the roof and working on a ladder or beneath a roof that has accumulated large amount of snow.
While you prepare your home for the winter, make sure that you dont forget about your automobile. The cold winter months can be very hard on your automobile. If you notice any problems with your automobile, have your mechanic take a look at it now so that you do not end up stranded on a cold winter day.

The following tips from Allstate Insurance Company will help to prepare your automobile for the cold weather:
  • Make sure that if your engine is experiencing hard starts, stalling or having other problems that you get it repaired.
  • Windshield wiper blades that are not making full contact with the window or that are dried out should be replaced. Also make sure to keep extra washer fluid and an ice scraper in your car.
  • Keep a cold weather safety kit in your car that that includes gloves, boots, blankets, flares, water and a flashlight.
  • Examine your tires for tread life and uneven wearing. Also make sure tires are properly inflated, tires lose a pound of pressure for every 10 degrees the temperature drops.
  • Make sure the heater and defroster are properly working to ensure passenger comfort and driver visibility.
  • The cooling system should be flushed every two years with a 50/50 mixture of antifreeze and water. Have the level, condition and concentration of the antifreeze mixture checked periodically.
  • Have your mechanic check your battery fluid levels, battery posts and cable connectors. Bad connections can keep your car from starting.
  • Brakes should be checked as recommended, but if you are having trouble such as pulsations, noises or longer stopping distances, get a professional to look at it right away.
  • Make sure all lights and bulbs are in working order and replace any burned-out bulbs.

Jason R Heidkamp