Those leaves changing from a summery green to red, orange, and yellow mean that summer’s done and winter’s coming. It also means it’s time to get your home ready for cold weather. While at first glance, your house might seem ready to handle anything winter can throw at it, but the real problems are usually out of sight —no matter how new your home is. That’s why it’s a good idea to spend a few hours over the next couple of fall weekends inspecting and preparing your home for winter.
To get you started, we’ve put together a list of 5 common home maintenance tips to help you protect your home’s value and keep you comfortable for the next several months.
1. Search your home for air leaks.
- On older windows, make sure window glass is sealed against the frame. Check for loose or cracked glazing. Re-seal with silicon caulk.
- All windows and doors should close snugly. You can check this by closing a dollar bill in a window or door. If you can pull the dollar out, then you are loosing money to cold drafts. Use weather stripping to reduce drafts.
- Seal any holes or gaps where the house framing meets the foundation. This will keep out both drafts AND uninvited rodent guests.Also, pull away any vines creeping into gaps in the siding. They let in moisture and cold air.
2. Kill the mold — everywhere.
During winter, you close up your home. If your house has a mold problem, then you’re closing up the mold with you, and that can make you sick. Mold can be found growing anywhere in your home with condensation: windows, doors, water softener tanks, well pressure tanks, bath tubs, toilet tanks, and bathroom ceilings. After eliminating the mold, increase ventilation in the area to keep the space dry and treat with sprays that prevent mold growth.
3. Clean out gutters and down spouts.
Clean rain gutters let snow and ice melt water drain away. If your gutters and downspouts are blocked, water freezes into giant, heavy icebergs that can tear the gutters from the fascia board or pull downspouts apart along their seams. Ice buildups in gutters can also help create ice dams that damage roofs. Plus, rain from next spring’s April showers can overflow and damage siding, windows, and doors or leak into basements and cause mildew problems.
4. Inspect duct work and water heater.
- Look for loose or disconnected ducts. Reconnect and secure with sheet metal screws and aluminum duct tape. According to EnergyStar, “About 20 to 30 percent of the air that moves through the duct system is lost due to leaks, holes, and poorly connected ducts.” Also, inspect and clean both the return and supply duct openings to keep them free of dust or anything that might obstruct them.
- Check your water heater’s insulation blanket to make sure it is secure and attached properly. If you don’t have one, get one. Insulate your hot water pipes with foam pipe insulators – they’re cheap, and you won’t have to wait as long for hot water before your shower.
5. FURNACE CHECK!
- Make sure your furnace starts when you turn up the thermostat. If you have a gas furnace, vacuum up any signs of ash or fine debris.
- On heat pumps, look for loose or torn insulation on the coolant lines and repair them. Remove any brush or weeds blocking air from the heat exchanger.
- If you have an old mechanical thermostat, consider replacing it with a programmable thermostat or smart thermostat. Both can save money and smart thermostats offer even more flexibility and greater savings.
- Lastly, replace your air filter. Clogged air filters make your furnace run longer and increase your energy costs.
While most of these home maintenance tips are easy and require only average skills, remember that if a job feels too complicated for you, then hire a professional. This is especially true when it comes to inspecting your home’s furnace and heating system. Trained, licensed technicians performing seasonal checkups can tell you the condition of your heating system, what parts are holding up, and which ones are wearing out.
That way, by being keeping up with the home maintenance your house needs, your family won’t find yourself out in the cold when winter arrives.