Family huddled around heat lamp
Photo: Echo/Getty Images
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The Heat Goes Out

There may be heated discussions around the dinner table this year, but it won't be enough to keep your company warm if the furnace or boiler suddenly goes kaput.

Before you panic, try these three things: (1) Check to see if the switch that controls the electricity to your system was mistakenly turned off. This switch usually has a bright red plate and may be located at the top of the basement steps or in a hallway, where a guest may have hit it looking for the lights. (2) Check to see if the pilot light on your system has gone out and make sure there's no smell of gas. (3) Check the fuel level. If the pilot light is out or you need fuel, contact your supplier; many keep operators on call 24/7 for just such an emergency, though getting someone to make a service call could be difficult.

In the meantime, trap the heat that's left in the main rooms by sealing out drafts. Close all the doors, and hang blankets over the windows and exterior doors. Secure the blankets with thin 2-inch finishing nails hammered into the top of the casing where the holes will be inconspicuous later. Sink the nails only halfway, then bend them into hooks to keep the heads from ripping through the blankets. Don't nail into the wall or use tape; you risk doing permanent damage. Stuff towels and blankets against thresholds to stop drafts from coming in under doors.

Check out Budget Fixes for Drafty Windows and Drape Away Drafts for more.

Last-minute shopping item: Finishing nails
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