Fall is the Perfect Time to Get Your Home Ready for Winter

Fall is the perfect time to give your home a checkup and make necessary repairs to get it ready for winter. Not only can this help your home feel more comfortable when the temperatures drop, but it can also help you save money on your energy bills and prevent costly repairs later.

Areas that should be included in your fall checkup include:

HVAC system
Obviously you want to ensure your heating system is up to the task before the temperatures plummet. Start by testing your heating system to ensure it is working well. Turn the thermostat to heat mode and set the temperature above your thermostat set-point. You should hear burners come on and feel for warm air blowing through a nearby vent within a few minutes. If everything works well, shut the furnace off. Also, don’t forget to change furnace filters. This should be done every month during heating season. A dirty filter restricts air flow and increases energy consumption. It’s a good idea to have your furnace professionally inspected annually to ensure everything is in good working order. And don’t forget about your air conditioning system. Give it a little TLC before you retire it for the year. Clean the condensing unit to remove dirt and debris and then cover it with a waterproof cover.

Windows and doors
Leaks account for a significant portion of wasted energy. Check for air leakage around your doors and windows by holding an incense stick near doors and windows and watch the smoke trail. Reattach or replace any loose or damaged weather stripping. Inspect the sealant and caulk around the exterior of windows and doors. You should also check the interior and exterior finishes on doors and windows and look for flaking or peeling paint or stain, which may indicate that it’s time to refinish or replace it. If you decide to replace your doors or windows, consider factory prefinished wood, fiberglass, or vinyl windows or door that don’t need painting or staining.

Your roof is your home’s first line of defense against the elements. Make sure it’s ready to stand up to snow, ice, and howling winds. Look for loose or missing shingles, as well as gaps around the chimney, flues, and other openings. You should also inspect your gutters and downspouts for debris and ensure they are properly attached, as well as check for missing or rusted flashing.

Your top landscaping priority should be removing any dead tree branches that could fall onto your home, car or power lines. You should also trim limbs that hang close to your roof or power lines.

Frigid temperatures can cause unprotected pipes to freeze and burst. Use electrical heating tape and foam insulation to insulate any pipes that are located in uninsulated places. Consider insulating your hot water tank with an insulated blanket. For exterior faucets, turn off the water supply and drain them. Garden hoses should be disconnected, drained, and stored inside. If you have a sprinkler system, you should have it winterized by a professional. Trying to winterize it yourself could damage your sprinkler system.

Inspect your chimney for nests from birds or squirrels. Make sure that flue opens and closes completely and locks into place. Test to ensure that the chimney will draw up fire and smoke by lighting a wad of newspaper and watching for the smoke to rise up the chimney. You should also examine the fire brick in the fireplace for open mortar joints. Repair any you find immediately. If you haven’t had your chimney cleaned in several years, hiring a professional chimney sweep is a great idea.

Ceiling fans
Switch ceiling fans to reverse. This will force warm air that has risen to the ceiling back down and into circulation. This simple step can reduce your heating costs by as much as 10 percent.

Check your attic to ensure you have adequate insulation. Most homes should have 12 to 15 inches of insulation. Adequate insulation will help keep warm air in the living space and out of the attic, where it can contribute to the formation of ice dams.

Decks and porches
Sweep your deck or patio to remove any dirt and debris and wash it with a hose. Once clean, examine your deck for any split or decaying wood, damaged boards, and damaged or missing flashing. Consider giving your deck a fresh coat of sealer. On your patio, remove any weeds that may have sprung up. Move patio furniture inside or cover it with waterproof covers.

Taking these steps now will ensure your house is ready for whatever Mother Nature dishes out over the winter.