As our nice weather appears to have ended – it is time (or past time) to do a few things to prepare your home for the upcoming cold temperatures. By taking some steps now, you can protect your home and be more comfortable, as well as save some money on utilities.
1. Tune up your heating system.
A tune up can ensure that your heating system is running as efficiently as possible, saving you money in monthly utility bills. The inspection also measures the amount of carbon monoxide that is released back into the air and makes sure it does not exceed safe limits. This is a great time to stock up on new furnace filters. Replace the filter for clean air flow. Most manufactures suggest replacing the filter one time a month. It is also a great time to think about investing in a programmable furnace.
2. Make sure your gutters are clean.
If your gutters are full of leaves and junk, water can back up and damage roofing, siding and trim. While you are on the roof examine the gutters, facia boards, shingles and flashing. Make any repairs needed. Make sure that the downspouts are connected properly and are long enough to divert the water far enough from the home. This will depend upon your landscaping and the slope of the land but for most homes having the downspouts extend 4 feet will usually suffice.
3. Winterize the A/C unit. Clean off any debris. If it is warm enough use a hose and spray the unit, cleaning off the fan blades and coils. Remove any window air units when possible or at least close the vents and cover them.
4. Check the outlets, doors, and windows for leaks. Insulate exterior outlets and switch plates with a foam sealing gasket. Check the outside moldings around windows and recaulk if needed. Older windows may have glaze holding in the glass panes. If any glaze is missing – reglaze. Clean the window tracks and inspect locks to make sure you can close and lock the windows securely. Inspect and replace any weather stripping around the doors. When it is cold check to see if there is any heat loss. Most of the time cities or CenterPoint will do an energy audit and give you many tips on how to make your home more energy efficient. This seems to be a service that is shut down during COVID times.
5. Mow and/or rake your leaves one last time.
Try and rake up acorns or any other type of seed to prevent new trees from sprouting up all over your lawn come spring. If you mow without a bagger the layer of leaves will decompose over the winter.
6. Winterize your mower.
Run the mower until the gas is gone, leaving gas in over the winter is bad for the mower. Clean off all the grass and debris and put it away until next summer.
7. Turn off your outdoor faucets.
Disconnect all garden hoses and drain out all the water. Water which remains in the faucet can cause damage. First drain the outside faucet and then turn off the shut off values to the exterior water in the inside of the home. If you have frost proof faucets you may not need to do this step. Insulate any exposed water pipes in uninsulated spaces.
8. Have your fireplace cleaned.
Utilities are often vented outside through the chimney (water heater and heating appliances) Make sure the chimney and vents are clean and intact to prevent fires and ensure carbon monoxide is not leaking into the house. Also check the chimney caps and the damper and flue to make sure they are closed. This is a job most people hire out.
9. Get the humidifier out or purchase a humidifier.
In the winter the air is very dry. Dry air can make your furnace less efficient and makes your home feel colder. Ideally your humidity level should be between 30-45%.
10. Winterize your sprinkler system.
If you have an underground sprinkler system have the lines blown out to prevent water from freezing and cracking the lines. Paying someone to blow the line is cheaper than repairing it in the spring.
11. Bring in the lawn furniture.
Bring inside the lawn furniture and portable grill. Clean them and put them away until next year. Drain all water from any outdoor fountains. Empty and put away all planters.
12. Seal cracks and holes to the outside to prevent mice from entering your home. Mice can get into you home with a hole smaller than a dime. Caulk or use spray foam to seal any holes. Store firewood and debris away from your home.
13. Prepare your car.
Make sure your car has a snow scraper and an emergency kit (jumper cables, hand warmers flares, kitty litter or sand to give you traction shovel and blankets.
14. Stock up on staples so when it is really cold you can stay in.