Waterloo, Cedar Falls, and the entire Cedar Valley have to deal with the cold Midwest winters. Winter weather can be hard on houses and cause expensive repairs and safety hazards. The good news is, these are completely preventable. Here are 5 things that you can do to protect your family and your home during the cold Midwest winters.

1. Monitor ice buildup around your furnace flue: Being a home inspector, I often see ice build-up around the furnace flue during freezing temperatures. Ice buildup can actually block combustion gases from venting to the outdoors, which is a safety hazard. Monitor your furnace flue and remove the ice when build up occurs to keep your family safe.

2. Remove hoses from hose bibs: We see far too many homes with hoses still connected in the winter. Even if you have a frost-free hose bib, the hose will allow any trapped water in the fixture to freeze. This can lead to the fixture breaking and flooding your basement, which could cost a lot of money to repair. Most of the time the flooding occurs in the spring when the hose bib is first turned on. For those of you realizing this is you-in the middle of February, it may be too late to prevent the hose bib from freezing. However, there are a few steps you can take to minimize any damage. First, remove your hose immediately. Second, when you turn the hose on in the spring, have someone monitoring the interior around the hose bib for water leakage. It is also a good idea to have another person next to the water shutoff to turn off the water if there are leaks. And remember,next year, remove your hoses before the first frost!

3. Change your furnace filter: Furnace filters are one of the most forgotten parts of home maintenance. Not changing your filter can make your furnace work harder and shorten it’s life span.  A dirty furnace filter can even prevent your furnace from being able to heat your home due to decreased air flow. Correct installation is important too. Always have the air flow arrow pointing towards the unit when changing the filter. Changing your filter monthly can extend the life of your unit and help you avoid costly repairs.

4. Radon testing: Winter is the best time to get accurate radon test results. Radon gas is the second leading cause of lung cancer, and Iowa is known for having some of the highest levels of naturally occurring radon in the country. Our high levels of radon come from our abundance of uranium in the ground- which is one reason that Iowa has such good farm land. Some people think that because a neighbor’s house tested low, or they don’t have a basement, their levels will be low. Radon does not discriminate! High radon levels are related more to the building practices used during construction of the house. If you live in Iowa you should have your home tested to ensure your family is safe!

5. Shovel your deck: Often times decks get neglected when it comes to snow removal. We know it is a lot of work to tend to your deck after clearing off your driveway and sidewalks. The problem is that there is an abundance of water when the snow melts. This can seep behind the siding and under the exterior doors causing water damage in your home. Taking 10 minutes to Clear off the deck can save you costly repairs in the future.

Do these 5 things to save yourself time, money, and worry during the winter!