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Tips to get your home ready for the harsh winter ahead

Kevin O'Connor of "This Old House" shares his top winter survival tips to prep your home for cold days and inclement weather.
/ Source: TODAY

The end of the holidays might signify the start of a brand new year, but it also means the beginning of winter and all the difficult weather issues that come along with the season.

Homeowners facing Old Man Winter's potential snow, sleet and plummeting temperatures over the next few months will benefit from preparing for winter's worst and doing it sooner than later. To help homeowners get ready for the winter ahead is home repair and renovation expert Kevin O' Connor of This Old House, which returns with all new episodes to PBS starting this Thursday, January 5th.

Don't get shut out

Any time of year, but especially in winter, you're going to need a functional garage door, even when the power goes out.

You definitely don't want to get stuck in or out of your garage, and while you can override the electrical system and open the door manually, the doors can be heavy and cumbersome. That's why it's a good idea to have a battery backup.

2 HP Ultra-Quiet Garage Door Opener, $248,

O' Connor recommends the Ryobi Ultra-Quiet garage door opener. It features a battery backup that keeps the door working even when the power is out. According to O'Connor, you can open and closet the garage door up to 100 times, which should be enough to last you until the power returns.

Don't be left in the dark

In bad winter weather, LED light options will keep you out of the dark. Why LED lights? They last longer, they're more efficient and they cast a brighter light. Here are a few options that homeowners can consider:

1. Energizer Weatheready Compact Rechargeable Light, $11.66,

Energizer's Weatheready Compact Rechargeable LED Light is perfect for keeping plugged in near your bed. When the power goes out, it casts a light that's bright enough to guide you around a dark house and it has a 3.5 hour charge. Just unplug it and use it as a flashlight!

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2. M12 LED Metal Flashlight, $97.99,

This M12 LED Metal Flashlight has a powerful 800-Lumen light whose charge will last up to 5 hours on the high setting. The beam adjusts from spot to flood to strobe for whatever situation you may need, and even comes with a battery fuel gauge so you know how much light power is left. If you've got the M12 cordless drill, its battery will run compatible with this flashlight.

3. BioLite PowerLight Bundle, $79.95,

If you're out of power for some time, it's a good idea to have an additional light source. This powerlight bundle system tethers two puck lights to a 200-lumen lantern that also converts to a flashlight. The battery can run up to four extra lights or fully charge up to three smart phones, which is great to have when the power goes out and you need a line to the outside world. Want to add more to your bundle? Additional pairs of lights sell for $29.95.

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4. Outdoor switch, $79.95,

This is the first watertight, frost-proof receptacle — think outdoor outlet — that lets you use your smartphone to control, monitor and schedule the operation of two separate outdoor electrical items such as flood lights or house lights. So convenient!

Tackle the ice like a pro

Ice can bring a lot of damage to homes, and even to those who might slip on a patch outside. Be aware of ice building up on your driveway or garage floor, and treat it ahead of time to prevent slips, falls and property damage.

1. Visual tread tape, $12.95 for 15',

1. Traction tape is great for use around the home, and provides immediate traction in slippery spots. We especially like to use it in high traffic areas of your garage, like alongside the car where you'll be getting in and out of a vehicle. It's also perfect on porches, stairs or any other surface where traction is needed.

2. Sand is another great option to boost traction on slippery stoops and walkways. O' Connor recommends sandbox sand over mason's sand, which is too fine for spreading on winter ice.

3. Alfalfa meal is a slow-acting fertilizer that helps melt away snow. Try it — your yard will thank you!

4. Kitty litter might sound like an odd thing to use on slippery surfaces, but it does the trick! It's slightly more expensive per pound, but works well and can be used all winter long. Keep a bag in your car for emergencies.

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5. If you want to get rid of ice altogether, use salt. There are a number of different kinds of salt out there. Rock salt is cheap and works at temperatures above 12 degrees Fahrenheit. Unfortunately, it's tough on shrubs and grass and can even eat away at concrete.

Two other salts, magnesium chloride and calcium chloride, cost a bit more but are less harsh, though still not great options for plants. These two salts work at much lower temperatures than rock salt (from 20 to 25 degrees below zero Fahrenheit). Just be sure to wear gloves when spreading any de-icer by hand. And for large areas, use a handheld spreader or a push spreader. O' Connor doesn't recommend using a grass spreader for this chore, as the de-icing granules will quickly gunk up the gears. And, when it comes time to store your de-icers, keep them off the floor or in a sealed bucket to keep them dry.

Upgrade your detectors

If you haven't changed your smoke detectors or CO monitors recently, now is the perfect time.

Halo Smart detector, $129,

The team at This Old House picked the Halo+ Smoke Detector and CO Alarm for the annual Top 100 list. It's due out on the market early this year, and is the only smoke alarm available that delivers weather and disaster alerts, which is ideal for winter conditions.

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You can even customize the alerts you wish to receive from the National Weather Service via the mobile app. What's more, it will work for up to 24 hours during power outages, so it will get you through the thick of the storm. What's more, the Halo will continue to monitor dangerous conditions during a power outage and will work for a week while the power is out.