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Winter is on the way, and with it the possibility of freezing temperatures, ice, and possibly snow—all of which bring specific hazards worth considering. With a bit of thought and preparation, this could be your safest and most comfortable winter ever. You might even save a few bucks.

Your home offers many opportunities to upgrade safety features, increase comfort, and save money on monthly utility bills. This is especially true if you live in an older home built before modern energy efficiency standards became commonplace in the building industry.

Let’s start by discussing the exterior of your home. What’s between you and the chill outside? If you live in a house that was built more than ten or so years ago, you may have noticed some drafty areas, especially near outer doors and windows. You may even have seen a bit of daylight showing between a door and a jamb.

Unless you live in a recently constructed home, chances are that your home would benefit from a window and door upgrade. Improving outer entryways with sturdier, well- insulated doors not only improves energy efficiency, it raises the security level of your home. Double-pane windows can protect against flying objects traveling up to around 35 miles per hour and improve the overall stability of a structure. Our area isn’t often subjected to winter storms as severe as those in other parts of the country, but window and door improvements also serve to harden your home against the ever-present threat of tornadoes.

For many of us, our car or truck is the most expensive single item we own, second only to our home. Yet many choose to use the garage to store... everything but the vehicles. Did you know some insurance companies allow a discount for parking inside a garage? Parking inside protects your vehicle from damage, ice, and snow, and lets you more comfortably enter and exit in inclement weather.

How are your tires? Try the penny test. Hold a penny by the bottom, so Abe’s head is exposed. Insert Mr. Lincoln’s head into the groove between tire treads. If any portion of his head is obscured by the tread of your tire, the tread is good. If not, it’s hard to recommend driving in snow—and it’s probably time to replace your tires.

Consider carrying an emergency kit in your vehicle. Ask yourself what you’d need if you broke down on a cold day in the middle of nowhere. What you might need depends on where you are, weather conditions, and how long you’ll be stranded, but some items are no-brainers, such as the basics of light, food, water, and keeping warm.

Regular maintenance and a little forethought go a long way toward being prepared for winter at home or in your vehicle. Good luck, and stay warm.

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