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How to get your home winter ready

Winter is a wonderful season, whether it be striding across frosty fields with friends and family or enjoying a glass of mulled wine in front of a roaring fire. But this time of year, also heralds extremes of weather, plummeting temperatures and seasonal storms, which can take a real toll on your home.

That's why autumn is the ideal time to prepare your property for the frosty months ahead.

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When did you last check your boiler? What you really don't want is a problem during the winter months so it is well worth considering a service, especially if it hasn't had one since last year! If your heating system has a timer, make sure it is set to turn the heating on for at least one to two hours per day. This will stop water in pipes from freezing, even in the worst winter weather, and prevent burst pipes and flooding.

It's also good to locate the stopcock, the valve that turns the cold-water system in your home on and off.

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Should there be any problems with pipes or leaks, the first thing that you or your guests need to do is turn the water supply off at the mains. This will help reduce the impact of a leak. Most commonly, the stopcock can be found under the kitchen sink although sometimes it may be located near your boiler, under the stairs or even outside of your property. Wherever it may be, it's definitely a good idea to ensure that everyone knows exactly where to locate it.

It's also sensible at this time to check all of your radiators to determine whether any need 'bleeding' - that is releasing air trapped inside them.

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Trapped air stops warm water circulating around your radiator and prevents them heating to the maximum. The main way of establishing if you do have this problem is to check if your radiator is cold at the top, but warm at the bottom.

A simple key is needed to perform this task. If you don't have one, any hardware store will supply a pack of them. There should be a square valve in the top corner of the radiator - use the key to turn this until you hear a hissing noise. Have a cloth ready to catch any liquid and, as soon as the hissing stops, use the key to close the valve tightly. Once bled, your central heating system will warm up rooms efficiently.

Autumn turning to winter is also the time when trees shed their leaves -with many ending up in your gutters.

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When the winter rain comes or snow falls, soggy leaves prevent water draining away. Other debris such as small stones, moss and twigs gather and also prevent rainwater flowing freely to the drain.

Stagnant water tries to find a way out, usually seeping through walls and ceilings causing internal damage. That's why a sensible early winter precaution is to access guttering and keep it leaf-free.

The winter months can bring high winds so it's wise to remove and store anything loose in your garden.

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This includes furniture, kids toys and hanging baskets. Secure them in a shed or cellar to prevent them from becoming missiles! While you're in the garden, it's a good idea to closely examine any trees that are close to your property. Cutting down large or overhanging branches removes the risk of them falling in a storm or heavy snowfall and damaging your home.

None of these jobs are particularly time-consuming or costly but they do prepare your property for the harsher weather ahead and quite possibly save you money in the long run. Once your home is winter-proofed, you can make the most of the season and enjoy your Christmas Day roast -- so put in an order for a turkey now!

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