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Winterize your house: Help lock in the heat and more with these tips from local experts

Help lock in the heat this winter with some tips from Duluth experts. thinkstock.com

As subzero temps continue in the Northland, there are things we can do to keep our homes in order.

"No. 1, they should be checking their smoke alarms," said Denny Moran at Denny's Ace Hardware in Duluth. That includes replacing batteries in alarms as well as in carbon monoxide detectors.

For space heaters, if you're using an extension cord make sure it's heavier than the cord on the heater. These appliances draw so much power that they can overheat the cable, Moran said.

Heat loss occurs underneath doors and windows, so check insulation on both.

If you feel a leak near a window, Moran suggested an insulation kit. Cover the window casing with the plastic and removable tape, and seal it with a hair dryer.

"It gets crystal clear and smooth and that keeps the wind from getting in the house," he said.

Avoid leaks under doors with weather stripping. Make sure it's touching the floor and snug, and if you don't have weather stripping, use a towel to lock in the warm air, said Giorgio Gallo, office manager and director of marketing at Summit Mechanical Service Inc. in Duluth.

Check for leaks in the basement or exterior walls. "You're going to get enough cold from the ground as it is," Moran said. Insulate between the beams of the floor and around the outside of the perimeter.

The first place to freeze in cold temperatures is a crawl space, Moran said, so be sure it's covered properly. Also check attics for leaks, which, depending on the size, can be patched with a foam sealant.

And as far as water, it'll stop flowing or the pipes will burst if the freeze is severe, Gallo said. Check water pipes and insulate with foam covers.

"Nobody pays attention to heating equipment. It's out of sight, out of mind," Gallo said. But if your furnace isn't working properly, you'll know because the temperature in your home will drop.

Check furnace filters, which allow adequate heat transfer. For efficiency, make sure they're clean.

If you haven't had your furnace checked for a couple of years, you should. There are many different kinds and you'll want someone who knows what they're doing, Moran said.

He suggested a professional check of newer models annually, and every couple of years for older ones. Check with a plumber or HVAC (heating, ventilation, air conditioning) technician to make adjustments, and schedule an inspection to ensure primary heating equipment is up to par, they said.

In the Northland, "not everyone has AC, but here, everybody needs heating," Gallo said.

Other tips:

• Keep gutters clean. Ice buildup could lead to interior leaks or damage.

• When not in use, close the fireplace flue.

• Close garage doors. This helps protect the hot water heater and other heating and plumbing appliances that are often located in the garage. Unplug hose spigots, where water could freeze and expand to the plumbing line or fixture.

To top it off at home, it's not too late to seal drafts, insulate pipes and clean furnaces, Moran said. "If they got those things done, they should be fine."

Melinda Lavine

Lavine is a features and health reporter for the Duluth News Tribune. 

(218) 723-5346
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