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3 easy ways to prep your home and yard for the cold weather

Home expert Kevin O'Connor from 'This Old House' shares his top three tips on how to winterize your home.
/ Source: TODAY

When it comes to prepping your home for winter, there are always plenty of to-do items on the list. But where do you start? Kevin O'Connor of This Old House stopped by the TODAY show this week to share his top three easy and affordable projects that homeowners can do to winterize their homes and yards.

O'Connor is here ahead of the all-new seasons of the long-standing renovation show, which is premiering this Thursday night, September 29 on PBS (check local listings). On the brand new season, viewers can expect to see a design overhaul of an Arts and Crafts-style house in Massachusetts that's rich in history and renovations, as well as the design makeover of a brick home in Detroit, Michigan.

Here are 3 easy ways to get your home ready for winter

1. Install a frost-proof faucet

Many homeowners — especially those in cooler climates — will turn off the outside spigot this time of year and put away the hose for the winter but that’s not enough. Why not, you ask?

What happens is the shut-off valve is on the outside of the house and the washer is exposed to cold and freezing temperatures, which means it can easily crack and split. At best this could cause a leaky faucet, but at worst frozen water can build up in the pipe. When it thaws it could crack the pipe and cause water damage on the inside and outside of the house. Thankfully, a frost-proof outdoor faucet can prevent these problems.

How it works: Essentially, you're installing a pipe that extends from the outside into the house so the shut-off point and the washer are on the inside, away from the cold weather elements. The washer can’t freeze and split, and water from cracked pipes can’t cause damage.

How much does one of these cost? You can pick up a frost-proof faucet at your home center for about $30 to $35 and save yourself a lot of money, and headaches, in the spring.

Can you install it yourself? You need to be pretty handy to do this — we might recommend a professional for this one.

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2. Plant perennials now, and don't neglect your lawn

How do you prepare your yard now for cooler weather ahead? First of all, there are a number of perennials that do best when planted in the fall before the first frost hits, including these:

  • Evergreens that will look great now and through the winter: Boxwoods can be planted now. These are great for borders and as landscaping accents.
  • Knock Out Roses: These gorgeous plants give color now and will flower during the spring, summer and fall!
  • Bulbs: Planting tulip, daffodil and hyacinth bulbs are a great idea for a burst of color in spring. Look for bulbs that are weighty, firm and mold-free and then store them in a cool, dry place until you’re ready to plant them.

Let's talk about the lawn. Why do you need to fertilize now? Taking the time to fertilize in the fall will strengthen your lawn’s roots, giving them a strong base to thrive next spring. We recommend fertilizing now in September and again at the end of October or early November.

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Why is this important? Fertilizer is a formula, which includes nitrogen to promote lawn blade and foliage growth, the second number stands for phosphorus which helps root growth, and the third is for potassium which promotes cell function and absorption of trace elements.

Before you apply fertilizer: As always, check the label and the manufacturer’s guidance for your area. A soil test will tell you exactly which nutrients to add and which are already present. A basic soil test kit can be bought at a home center for a few dollars, or a lab can run a more detailed analysis. By helping the roots grow before winter sets in, you are insuring that the lawn will green-up quicker in the spring and become more resistant to disease and drought.

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3. Dodge the drafts

Windows are a significant source of heat loss. How can you stop cold drafts, improve energy efficiency and save on your fuel bill? There are a host of ways to improve your home’s energy efficiency — from additional insulation to sealing air leaks.

RELATED: How can I seal my windows for the winter?

How to stop air leaks in your window

  • Start by locking the window: This seals the gap between the meeting rails, stopping the airflow. Depending on the size of the window, you may want to install two sash locks to tighten up the gap.
  • Add weather stripping: You can also add or replace weather stripping around the window to seal any air gaps. Weather stripping comes in different sizes, based on the size of the gap.
  • Consider interior storm windows: If you have older windows and don’t want to replace them, you can have interior storm windows custom fit to place inside during the winter. They provide an added level of insulation and fit in place by compression — just press in place!