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Learn how to get your home ready for winter - inside and out

(ARA) - It may not feel like winter yet, but cold weather is around the corner. Take advantage of the good weather now by following these tips to prepare the outside and inside of your home to survive the winter months ahead. 

Outside tips 

* After a summer of caring for your lawn, you might be looking for a break, but make sure you don't stop mowing too soon. Lawns should be mowed well into the fall, even after growing stops. Grass should be at least 3 inches high and clippings should be raked up and bagged on the last mowing of the season to prevent roots being smothered over the winter. 

* If you planted perennials, check with your local garden center about what type of protection particular plants require depending on where you live. Gardeners in Minnesota will face much different winter weather than someone in Virginia. Protecting with extra mulch or soil will help in some places, while others may require covering the plants with burlap, canvas or any other porous fabric. If you have trees that come near a power line, the branches should be trimmed back in the event of ice storms or heavy snowfalls that can cause trees to fall. 

* Companies like TimberTech manufacture composite decking, railing, and fence products that require less maintenance than traditional treated wood. While no product is maintenance free, low maintenance decking means less work for you to prepare your deck for the winter. Whether your deck is treated wood or composite wood, keeping a clean, dry deck surface is the key to longer deck life and enjoyment. Just as you would rake the leaves from the lawn, sweep the leaves, needles and branches from the deck and remove all smaller debris from between deck boards as proper drainage is important to avoiding moisture build up. You can also use a deck cleaner and power washer to eliminate build-up. If you have a treated-wood deck, make sure you seal or stain the deck to keep water from getting in. 

If you live in a cold weather climate where ice and snow are a factor, use calcium chloride or rock salt to melt the ice and snow on your deck. When shoveling snow off of the deck, run the shovel lengthwise on the deck boards. Shoveling cross-wise can scratch or cut into the planks. 

* Storing deck furniture depends on what type of furniture you have. Wood furniture needs to be treated and covered with a protective, waterproof cover. Folding deck chairs can be easily stored in basements, garages or sheds, while covers are available for most size tables. 

* If you've got a snowblower, make sure it's tuned up and ready to go; if you have a lawnmower, make sure you run it down or drain all the fuel out of it. Fuel in a mower or snowblower should be fresh when you start the season. 

* If you have cracks in your driveway or sidewalks, make sure they are repaired before the snow starts. The thawing and refreezing of snow can cause significant damage when it gets into cracks. 

Indoor tips 

* The more cold air you keep out, the less heat you'll have to use to warm your house. If you have drafty windows, consider wrapping them with plastic to help save energy and keep the cold air out of your house. Another way to keep the heat in is to caulk around windows and door frames where air may leak into the house, and add weather stripping or replace weather stripping that may have worn down. 

* If you have a fireplace, make sure it is capped to keep birds and rodents out. Firewood should also be stored away from your house as it can become a home for mice. 

* Heating accounts for 34 percent of utility usage, according to the Environmental Protection Agency, so checking your ducts to make sure they are sealed is a great way to save money by increasing the efficiency of your furnace. Other ways to make sure you are heating your home efficiently is by making sure your furnace is tuned up and installing a programmable thermostat that can be set to regulate your home's temperature without you having to remember to do it yourself. 

Following these tips can help you save money in the short and long term as you get ready to welcome the winter to your outdoor and indoor spaces.

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