After one of the hottest summers on record, fall is a welcome relief to many. Soon, winter will be here. Now is an optimal time to winterize your home. By completing some easy preventative maintenance projects now, you will not only keep your home efficient during the cold weather but also save money from any future and costly repairs. Smart homeowners know that diligent maintenance adds to the beauty and longevity of their house.
Here are ten tips that will help you prepare your home for winter:
1) Furnace Inspection
•Call an HVAC professional to inspect your furnace, humidifier pads & water heater.
•Stock up on furnace filters. I recommend the pleated paper filters. They are more efficient and can be replaced every 3 to 6 months depending on style.
•Consider switching out your thermostat for a programmable thermostat.
•If your home is heated by a hot-water radiator, bleed the valves by opening them slightly and when water appears, close them.
•Remove all flammable material from the area surrounding your furnace.
2) Prepare Your Fireplace
•Cap or screen the top of the chimney to keep out rodents and birds.
•If the chimney hasn't been cleaned for a while, call a chimney sweep to remove soot and creosote. This prevents dangerous and messy chimney fires.
•Buy firewood or chop wood and store in a dry place away from the exterior of your home.
•Inspect the fireplace damper for proper opening and closing.
•Check the mortar between bricks and tuck point, if necessary.
3) Check the Exterior, Doors and Windows
•Inspect your home exterior for crevice cracks and exposed entry points around pipes. If any cracks or openings are found, seal them.
•Use weather-stripping around doors to prevent cold air from entering the home. Caulk your windows as well.
•Replace cracked glass in windows and, if you end up replacing the entire window, prime and paint exposed wood.
•If your home has a basement, consider protecting its window wells by covering them with plastic shields. Locate and clean drains of debris.
•Switch out summer screens with glass replacements from storage. If you have storm windows, install them.
4) Inspect Roof, Gutters & Downspouts
•If the temperature dips below 32 degrees in the winter, adding extra insulation to the attic will prevent warm air from creeping to your roof and causing ice dams.
•Check for flashing to ensure water cannot enter the home.
•Replace worn roof shingles or tiles.
•Clean out the gutters and use a hose to spray water down the downspouts to clear away debris.
•Consider installing leaf guards on the gutters or extensions on the downspouts to direct water away to at least five feet away from the home.
5) Service Seasonal Equipment
•Drain gas from lawnmowers.
•Service or tune-up snow blowers.
•Perform a test-run on your generator at least 2-3 times per year.
•Replace worn rakes and snow shovels.
•Clean, dry and store summer gardening equipment.
•Sharpen ice choppers and buy bags of ice-melt / sand.
6) Check Foundations
•Remove all debris and edible vegetation from your home’s foundation.
•Seal up entry points to keep small animals from burrowing under your house.
•Tuck-point or seal foundation cracks. Mice can slip through spaces as thin as a pencil.
•Inspect sill plates for dry rot or pest infestation.
•Secure crawlspace entrances.
7) Install Smoke and Carbon Monoxide Detectors
•Smoke detectors are recommended in every sleeping room, on every level and near heating equipment.
•Buy extra smoke detector batteries and change them when the time changes in your area.
•Install a carbon monoxide detector near your furnace and / or water heater, in the same room as a fireplace and on your sleeping level.
•Test smoke and carbon monoxide detectors to make sure they work. Replace every seven years or when plastic has yellowed.
•Buy fire extinguishers or replace an extinguisher older than 7 years.
8) Prevent Plumbing Freezes
•Locate your water main in the event you need to shut it off in an emergency.
•Drain and disconnect all garden hoses.
•Insulate exposed plumbing pipes.
•If you go on vacation, leave the heat on, set to at least 55 degrees.
9) Prepare Landscaping & Outdoor Surfaces
•Trim trees if branches hang too close to the house or any electrical wires.
•Ask a gardener when your trees should be pruned to prevent winter injury and prosper next spring.
•Plant spring flower bulbs and remove those that cannot sustain the winter.
•Seal driveways, brick patios and wood decks.
•Don't remove all dead vegetation from gardens as some provide attractive scenery in an otherwise dreary, snow-covered yard.
•Move sensitive potted plants indoors or to a sheltered area.
10) Prepare an Emergency Kit
•Buy indoor candles and matches or a lighter for use during a power shortage.· Never use a generator in an enclosed space or near an open window to your home due to carbon monoxide.
•Find the phone numbers for your utility companies and put them in a prominent place where you can find them or put them in your cell phone contacts or inside the phone book.
•Buy a battery back-up to protect your computer and other sensitive electronic equipment.
•Store extra bottled water and non-perishable food supplies (including pet food, if you have a pet), blankets and a first-aid kit in a dry and easy-access location.
•Prepare an evacuation plan in the event of an emergency.
Now sit back and enjoy a hot chocolate beside the fire place. Enjoy winter!
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