A furnace that breaks down, pipes that freeze and burst, and pesky rodents that take up residency in your home—these are a few of the common winter problems that can be prevented with some planning and a trip to the hardware store. By making it a priority to keep your house in working order this winter, you’ll save money and avoid disaster. Consider this your winter home maintenance cheat sheet.

Prevent pipes from freezing

When the wind chill reaches 20 below zero, the concern is pipes on exterior walls freezing, says Brian Wilk, vice president of Bishop Plumbing in Des Plaines. Keep your pipes from freezing with few simple preventative measures:

  • Trickle water from the faucet. Moving water does not freeze.
  • Remove your garden hose from the outside valve. It prevents the remaining water in it from freezing and bursting the pipe that’s connected to it inside your home.
  • Don’t worry about piping on internal walls; it’s warmed throughout the house.
  • For problem areas, Ace Hardware’s resident home expert Lou Manfredini suggests wrapping pipes in pipe insulation or electric wraps by Easy Heat.

Keep mice outside

Don’t pile wood outside your house because it will entice rodents to take up residence.

“Mice will hang out and find their way inside,” Manfredini says. “Mice can get in through a hole the size of a dime. Walk around the perimeter of your house and pay attention to loose siding, cracks in the foundation, and missing mortar around brickwork. Any of that can be fixed in the winter months.”

If mice do make their way inside, here’s how to deal:

  • Use bait and traps to catch mice.
  • Know there is always more than one mouse.
  • Allow two weeks to solve the problem.
  • Find natural remedies that drive away mice here.

Keep your house warm and cozy

The last thing you need during a polar vortex is a furnace that gives out. Start by changing the filters regularly. Clogged filters cause furnaces to work harder and break down, Manfredini says. Also, have your furnace professionally inspected and cleaned once a year. It costs about $100 versus the emergency $600 to $700 service call. Manfredini’s other tips include:

  • Eliminating drafts with door sweeps and window film kits.
  • Keeping walkways and driveways clear of ice with calcium chloride. It does less damage to landscapes than rock salt.

Enjoy fires safely

Safe fires start with a clean and functional chimney. Be sure to have your chimney inspected annually. Michael Boudart, president of Lindemann Chimney Co. in Lake Bluff, offers these tips for safe fireplace use:

  • Build fires slowly.
  • Burn nothing but-high quality, dried hardwood, such as oak, birch, cherry or apple.
  • Remove the ashes regularly with a shovel.
  • Make sure the embers are cold before discarding them.