Are you—and your home—ready for cold weather? No matter your climate, get these maintenance tasks finished before the temperatures take a dive.

1. Call your friendly local HVAC folks for an appointment, even if nothing’s wrong with the heater or air-conditioner. These units need yearly maintenance, so get on a regular schedule of checkups: once in the spring (for the AC) and once in the fall (for the heater).

2. Change the air filter on the HVAC unit. A buildup of dust forces the heater to work harder to take in air, thus increasing your energy bills. Swap out the air filter every one to three months.

3. Apply weatherstripping around exterior doors. It’s amazing what a box of weatherstripping can do to seal off exterior doors and the garage door.

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4. Move snow shovels and the snow blower to a convenient spot. Pull these snow-removal implements into an easy-to-retrieve place in the garage so you’re not digging them out as a snowstorm rages.

5. Remove screen doors from the house and clean the screens with a little dish soap and the garden hose. Once they’re dry, stash the doors in a protected spot. (The garage is ideal.)

6. Replace burned-out lightbulbs in exterior fixtures. Exterior lights are all the more important when sunrise arrives so late and sundown comes so early, especially if you’re outside scraping car windows or shoveling snow.

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7. Make sure walkways are unobstructed. Clearing leaves and obstacles while the weather is still agreeable means they are safer to navigate and simpler to shovel once snow and ice hit.

8. Clean and store garden tools. Shovels, rakes and other garden implements fare poorly if left outside. Stash them in a shed, garage or basement so they don’t rust or rot. Metal parts can be cleaned by plunging them into a bucket of sand moistened with a little motor oil–the sand scrapes off any dirt or rust, and the oil protects the metal during storage.

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9. Drape an insulated blanket around the hot-water heater to keep heat in the unit.

10. Learn where your water shut-off valves are so you can turn off the water in case of a leak or burst pipes.

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