Check the Furnace
Cold temperatures have already hit many regions in the country, and they'll continue to drop throughout the winter. Make sure that your home can handle what's in store by scheduling a routine check-in with an HVAC specialist. Not only do the pros clean the furnace and replace the filter, but they also check for dangerous leaks to keep you safe.
Protect Your Pipes
In colder regions, frozen pipes are one of the biggest—and most expensive—winter disasters. Take the following precautions to keep yours from freezing and subsequently bursting. First, ensure that exterior walls and garages that house water pipes are properly insulated. If your home is at high risk of frozen pipes, you might keep thermostats set at the same temperature, day and night. Finally, consider installing heating tape on the roof and in gutters with a timer to turn off automatically when not in use.
Kitchen Clean Up
More than likely, Thanksgiving dinner left its mark on your kitchen—in the oven, microwave, toaster, and refrigerator, that is. Now is a good time to give your appliances a deep clean. Not only will they look better, but they'll work better, too. Don't forget to vacuum dusty refrigerator coils to improve your energy efficiency and lower your utility bill.
Related: How To—Clean Any Appliance
Save Big on Energy Costs
It's normal to see energy usage—and bills—spike in the cold winter months. Shorter days force homeowners keep the lights on longer, and dropping temperatures lead to extended runtimes for both furnaces and space heaters. Those things aside, there's a lot that can be done to reduce energy costs. For instance, turning down the temperature on the thermostat as well as the water heater translates to lower bills. If you decorate with holiday lights, opt for efficient LEDs that use less energy to put out the same amount of light. Perhaps most importantly, seal or cover drafts, including the windows, doors, and the fireplace damper when not in use.
Crown molding and wainscoting add a timeless quality to any room. If your living room, dining room, or bedroom need a change, consider installing trim along the ceiling, floor, and around the windows and doors. This relatively quick project is easy to DIY and makes a big impact for your dollars. In the bathroom, you might even go the extra mile with a trendy beadboard along the lower half of the wall.
Brighten Your Space
Cloudy winter days and longer nights make ample lighting a necessity. Stretch your DIY skills and try your hand at making your own lamp. Pick up a lamp kit at any home center, and thread it through the base of your choice, whether cast concrete, an upcycled vase, plumbing pipes, or a DIY wall sconce. For safety, always use a lamp kit, rather than attempting to rewire your overhead lights.
Get Ready for Snow Removal
Like it or not—if it hasn't yet come to your neighborhood—snow and ice are on the way. Prepare for winter's worst by stocking up now on ice melt or sand, or make your own. Don't forget to dig out the snow shovels and put them in a convenient place like an attached garage, back porch, or mudroom.
Finish the Basement
Although winter keeps most people indoors, few homeowners spend much time in an unfinished basement. That makes this room renovation a great choice (and popular project) for December, when it can be completed with little interference with day-to-day life. In less than a month's time, you can assemble a room you'd love to really live in year-round.
Out With the Old
It's time to clear out cluttered closets, workshops, pantries, and kids' rooms. Take an inventory of what you have, and weed out the things you rarely use or don't need. Extra coats, linens, toys, and shelf-stable food can often be donated; but first check with a local donation center to determine what they will (and won't) take.
Check for Tax Credits
Every year, there are a variety of tax credits that homeowners can cash in on for a bigger rebate next April. Make sure that you reap your rewards before the year is out. For instance, taking a few steps to make your home greener and more energy-efficient can earn you up to $500 in tax rebates.
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