Whether you have a lake house or a home far from Brazos River Authority reservoirs, there are several things you can do to protect your home from the harsh weather we sometimes experience in winter. Fortunately, those conditions are infrequent in Texas, but they can still cause damage to your home. By taking a few steps in advance, you can often avoid a costly repair bill later.

A variety of websites, such as Popular Mechanics and even WebMD, offer several tips that can help ensure your home is ready to withstand the punishment that winter dishes out.

First, it’s important to make sure your home heating system is working properly, and if you aren’t living in the home full time, you can set the temperature from 40 to 55 degrees to help ensure that pipes in your home don’t burst and cause significant damage. If you’re not sure what to look for, you can call a company specializing in heating to inspect your home heating system.

One thing to remember is that ice and wind can cause power outages, and freezing temperatures can wreak havoc when the cold lingers. If you are away from your house for prolonged periods, you can always ask a neighbor to help you keep an eye on things and call you if problems arise, or you can hire someone to help look after your home.

You can also install a phone-based freeze alarm or internet thermostat that will warn you when temperatures drop to dangerous levels inside your home.

Keep the cold out and the heat in

You should monitor the doors and windows of your home to look for gaps where cold air can stream in. By installing weather stripping or caulking those areas, you can help avoid higher heating bills and also help protect your home’s infrastructure.

Special plastic window film can be applied to older windows, and this can reduce energy loss by up to 50 percent.

If you have a fireplace, be sure to keep the damper closed when you don’t have a fire built. You might be surprised how much heat can escape through your chimney. If you do use your fireplace or wood stove on your property, you can help ensure their efficiency by having them cleaned once a year.

Another huge way to protect your house and lower energy costs is to add insulation. Adding fiberglass insulation in your attic can dramatically reduce energy bills by boosting energy efficiency in your home. You need at least 12 inches of insulation in the attic. If you add the insulation yourself, make sure it does not have a paper backing when you install it. That paper creates a vapor barrier and can cause you problems later.

Avoid water damage

While we are blessed with warmer weather in the south, freezing temperatures can lead to an accumulation of ice. You should remove dead leaves and debris from the storm gutters of your house before temperatures drop to freezing. If the gutters are blocked and the water in the gutters freezes, this can damage the gutters or shingles on the roof, and it can also lead to water dripping into your house.

Inside your home, leaky water pipes combined with freezing temperatures can lead to disastrous consequences. If the pipes burst, damage can be done to walls, floors and the contents of your home.

Be sure to wrap any pipes that aren’t in heated areas of your home. Also, if you won’t be in the home much during winter months, you can even wrap pipes in areas that are heated as an extra precaution in case of power outage.

Keep the critters away

One other precaution to take is to take measures to protect your home from any animals that might want to seek shelter from freezing temperatures. Mice, rats and squirrels are opportunists that will look for an entry wherever they can find it. Be sure to patch or fill any cracks or holes. Rodents can squeeze through smaller holes than you might think.

You can also set conventional traps or baits in out of the way areas as another level of protection.

Keep in mind that any leaves or debris left near the home can serve as a nesting place for these rodents, so removing that can help you avoid problems.

Shut off your sprinkler

Here’s one more tip, this one for the outside: If you have an automated sprinkler system, don’t forget to turn it off. With a record El Nino expected to drop large amounts of rain this winter, there should be plenty of moisture keep your outdoor plants in good shape.

Taking these basic steps to winterize your home can help you avoid grief and financial setbacks and also help put your mind at ease heading into winter.