Preventing Winter Woes

Taking steps now will help keep you, your home, and car safe during the cold weather months

DENVER, November 1, 2008 --The thermometer is dipping low and the sun is setting earlier. That means the potential for pipes to freeze, roofs to leak, and people to slip on ice is here. Winterizing your home and car and learning winter driving tips can help keep you safe on the road and help prevent home damage. Avoiding auto insurance or homeowners insurance claims keeps your insurance policies low, saving you money.

Winterizing Your Home & Property

Taking the time for inexpensive house chores now will prevent you from incurring expensive home repairs or personal injuries during the winter. Plus, you'll be able to keep your thermostat at a sensible level, saving you money on heating bills.

Clear Out Your Water System
Blow out lawn sprinkler lines with an air compressor or have a professional do it for you. Unplug and deactivate your sprinkler timers.
Store garden hoses.
Drain outside faucets by turning off the water inside your home, open the hose faucet and release any remaining water by removing the vent cover from the side of the valve body.

Check Your Roof, Gutters and Chimney
Replace loose screws with inexpensive gutter screws available at most home stores. Prevent water build up by clearing out all debris from your gutters as frequently as possible, but especially after the trees have let go of their fall leaves. This will avoid the potential for leaks into your home as a result of ice melting, costly repairs and a homeowners insurance claim.
Examine your roof thoroughly to see if there are any broken, cracked or missing shingles that need replacing.
The area where the roof meets the chimney, vents, and pipes, is often where many water leaks occur. Secure that area, using a patch of roofing cement.
Before you light up the fireplace, hire a certified chimney sweep to ensure any build-up or blockages are removed. These can cause a carbon monoxide hazard to you and your family.

Seal Up the House, Save on Energy
Using a lit candle will help you discover areas around windows and doors that are allowing warm air to escape and cold winter air to seep in.
Replacing caulk and weather stripping will keep you from paying heating costs that go right out the window.

Keep Driveways and Sidewalks Safe
The quickest damper on your holiday season is being sued because someone slipped and fell on your property.
Avoid accidents by frequently shoveling your driveway and sidewalks.
An eco-friendly solution to a de-icer like sodium chloride, which can ruin soil, contaminate groundwater and be harmful to pets, is using fine sand or an animal and earth-friendly anti-icer like calcium magnesium acetate (CMA).
Checking all your outside lights will allow people to see where they're walking and help to prevent unnecessary accidents.

Before the First Snow - Winterizing Your Car

Winter weather can cause havoc as the winds and snow become more frequent, made worse by the weather's effect on your car's operation. When making plans to winterize your home, don't forget to winterize your car. It will help you avoid frustrating situations and keep you safer on the road.

Check your tires. It's important to do this while the autumn leaves are falling, before the snow arrives. Bald tires or low pressure in your tires can cause your car to spin out of the control on icy roads, increasing your chance for an accident. If you tread is down to 1/32 or less, or the tire shows visible cracks, it's time to visit the tire store. Continue to use your tire gauge throughout winter and watch the thread of your tire, which can be compromised by snow and slush. And while you're maintaining your four tires, remember to check your spare tire as well.

Snow season and winter tires. If you live in an area that gets regular, or even periodic, snow fall, consider purchasing winter tires. They can significantly help provide smoother driving in cold weather. You may also be required by law to equip your car with snow tires, but at the least, have a complete set of snow chains and learn how to put them on your car.

Check all car lights. Having a headlight out can cause visibility problems when driving at night. If your taillight or signal light is out, it could prevent other drivers from seeing you.

Tune-up your car. The last thing you want to experience is engine trouble when it's 20 or 30 degrees outside. Having your car checked for any potential problems before they happen will give you peace of mind. While you're at it, have your oil changed and make sure your battery is checked for proper working order.

Check your radiator. Colder temperatures will have an effect on your radiator's operation. Having it filled with the proper anti-freeze will help avoid potential issues.

Windshield maintenance. If you can't see what's in front of you, you can't drive. Make sure your windshield wipers are in good working order or replace them if they're worn and cracked. Fill up your wiper fluid and keep a few extra gallons on hand if you're experiencing regular snow fall. If you have a small crack in the windshield, you'll want to have it fixed before the cold weather causes it to spread.

Winter Driving Tips

Driving during the winter months can be dangerous, especially with the onset of slick roads, shorter daylight, and stressful drivers. Taking the following driving precautions will help keep you and your loved ones safe on the road and avoid costly accidents.

Don't drive if you don't need to. Check with your state's highway patrol for road conditions and respect their advice. The last thing you want to do is end up on the side of the road, stuck in a snowstorm.

Allow enough time to get to your destination. Roads can be unpredictable during the winter months and can become slick at a moment's notice. Patches of water that turn into ice overnight, or what's known as "black ice", is responsible for numerous accidents every year. Driving slow and cautious, especially at night, will give you time to react and maneuver your car back on the road.

The holidays can be hectic, but try to avoid driving when you're tired. You need to be awake and alert at all times.

If you need to warm up your car, stay in it at all times. Leaving a running car unattended is an invitation to car thieves, and some cities will cite you with a fine. And never warm up your car in an enclosed area.

Keep a safety roadside kit in your truck, equipped with the phone number for roadside assistance, flares, flashlight, warm blankets, water, battery cables, small shovel with a bag of sand, non-perishable food and extra warm clothing.

During these tough economic times, it's smart to take precautions with your home and auto, especially if you can save money down the road. Now is also a good time to review all your current insurance policies with your insurance agent, including your homeowners, auto and liability insurance, to see if they meet your needs and provide the protection you need this winter season. Then you can relax in front of the fire and enjoy all the wonder the colder months have to offer.