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Ready for Winter: Plenty of procedures in place can make the home safe for the cold

Illustration by Cathryn Cunningham/Journal

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Temperatures are dropping, the sun is setting earlier each day and pumpkin spice has invaded all things consumable, which means it’s time to get the home and yard winter ready.

By now, most people have turned on their heaters but there is a lot more that goes into making the home and its occupants safe, warm and protected during the cold season. From dangers like carbon monoxide poisoning to financial burdens and damage caused by busted pipes, homeowners can take steps to prevent these undesired outcomes.

Comfort Doctor Heating, Cooling & Plumbing owner Richard Mati said the first step is prepping the home for heating. Shutting down and simply covering a swamp cooler is not enough. He said homeowners need to make sure their unit has a damper that will prevent the heat from escaping. Another culprit for sucking out warm air are doggy doors. Mati said while cold air will not necessarily come in through the doors, heat will exit and so owners should consider shutting those during winter months. Also, close the dampers on the fireplace or kiva when not in use.

He said the next step is making sure windows and doors are not letting in drafts. This can be done with weather stripping, door sweeps and proper window coverings that can help insulate the home. Mati added that just because the system is currently running does not mean it will make it through winter or that it’s running properly. Mati, whose business is located in Santa Fe, said at the very least, homeowners should change the filters in their system. At best, he said, they should call a professional to check the entire system and perform routine maintenance to avoid excessive repair costs.

“They will make sure there are not gas or plumbing leaks and that the system is working,” he said. “Make sure the technician has a checklist and documentation for the work they perform.”

Mati said when leaving for extended periods, residents of the home should set their thermostats above freezing to keep the indoor pipes safe.

Taking preventative measure outside the home is also important and yard maintenance at this time of year will help ensure a bountiful spring. George Barreras, whose family owns Barreras Mechanical, said it’s important to buy outdoor facet covers or wrap faucets with insulation to prevent them from bursting.

“You want to make sure no air can get to it,” he said. “Make sure you disconnect and drain outdoor hoses. Make sure there is no water because they will freeze, expand and then burst.”

Jill Brown ( recommends a slew of tasks to perform this month that will protect outdoor landscaping and prep it for next spring. Here are some suggestions from her landscaping blog, 505 Outside, that she does in conjunction with the Albuquerque Bernalillo County Water Utility Authority.

• Mow the lawn to a height of 1 to 2 inches.

• Aerate the ground before it freezes, which is creating small holes in the lawn that will allow air, water and nutrient to reach the roots during winter.

• Remove fallen leaves from the lawn as it can cause damage to the grass during the cold months

• Add mulch to plants to help maintain moisture. When it comes to trees, make sure to leave a space around the trunk.

• Shut off the water supply to the irrigation system.

• Drain the water from all pipes, valves, and sprinkler heads. has these additional tips for home and outdoors:

• Be prepared. Don’t wait until it snows to buy a snow shovel or other winter tools. Stock up on canned goods and extra water now.

• Give outdoor decks a fresh coast of sealer.

• Have chimneys and wood stoves cleaned early in the season.

• Clean gutters and downspouts.

• Trim and prune trees near power lines and the home. Heavy snow and ice could cause branches to break and fall resulting in damage to the home or line.

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