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Winter is creeping in, and if the experts are right, this season could be colder and snowier.

Forecasters have predicted that this year’s El Nino weather phenomenon could be the strongest since 1950, with the Met Office warning of a winter even colder than 2009/2010 – which was dubbed “Britain’s Big Freeze.”

So as temperatures plummet it's time to take some practical steps to preparing your home for the impending cold winter months:

Safety first

It is always a good idea to have your heating system serviced and your chimney swept before winter really gets a grip. If you have wood-burning, coal or gas heaters make sure there is adequate ventilation. Never block air vents, and get your boiler serviced every 12 months by a professional gas engineer. Make sure your smoke alarms are in order as well. If you have any worries, local fire services often offer free home fire safety checks and some households may be eligible for free smoke alarms.

Find your stopcock!

Water pipes can freeze and burst when temperatures plunge. If the worst should happen, you'll need to turn off the water supply using the main stopcock.

Salt and sand

Stock up on a couple of bags of each in case your pathway gets icy, and keep a battery-operated or wind up radio and torch handy in case of a power cut.

Winter-proof garden furniture

Garden furniture can be costly to replace, so it is important to protect it from the winter elements.

Give wooden furniture a coat of protective sealant or varnish. Wind, rain and temperature changes will warp wood, so safeguarding it from moisture is well worth the effort. Protective paint on metal furniture will prevent it from rusting.

Invest in PVC-backed covers to shelter your furniture from the rain and snow and be sure to tie these down securely so they do not blow off in the wind. You could also consider raising furniture off of the ground and on to slabs to prevent the legs rotting in puddles. Remember, though, this will not necessarily keep out the frost.

Ideally garden furniture should be stored indoors during the winter months. If your shed or garage is not up to the job, why not give us a call. We have more than 1,000 affordable, dry storage units available - from wardrobe to warehouse size, which can be used for as little or as long as you need.

Put summer in a box

Now is the time to prepare your living space for the colder months ahead. First of all, pack up the summery items. Shorts, t-shirts, holiday suitcases, fans and lightweight duvets can all be boxed up and put in the spare room or attic. We have indoor dry, safe, secure storage units available.

Be winter roadworthy

Winter does not officially start until December 22 this year, but it is a wise idea to winter-proof your car now. Ensure antifreeze is topped up, batteries are fully charged and tyres treads are safe. Make sure your windscreen is clear (chips can turn into costly cracks in cold weather) and test your brakes to ensure the pads are still in good order.

Avoid running a car’s fuel tank until it is empty. This could cause the fuel line to freeze up and stop the vehicle from starting. If you do not have a garage, consider investing in a car cover. And if you do not know your oil cap from your cambelt, get your car fully serviced by a professional mechanic before the winter grip.