Are you ready? Now’s the time to start getting your home ready for the winter months.
Here’s an autumn to-do list of 10 easy tips:
1. Clean those gutters
Once the leaves and pine needles fall, remove them and other debris from your home’s gutters — by hand, by scraper or spatula, and finally by a good hose rinse — so that winter’s rain and melting snow can drain. As you’re hosing out your gutters, look for leaks and misaligned pipes.
2. Block those leaks
One of the best ways to winterize your home is to simply block obvious leaks around your house, both inside and out. Buy door sweeps to close spaces under exterior doors, and caulk or apply tacky rope caulk to those drafty spots. Outlet gaskets can easily be installed in electrical outlets that share a home’s outer walls, where cold air often enters.
Outside, seal leaks with weather-resistant caulk. For brick areas, use masonry sealer, which will better stand up to freezing and thawing. “Even if it’s a small crack, it’s worth sealing up. “It also discourages any insects from entering your home.”
3. Insulate yourself
“Another thing that does cost a little money — but you do get the money back quick — is adding insulation to the existing insulation. “If you go into the attic and you can see the ceiling joists you know you don’t have enough.
4. Check your heating units.
Throughout the winter you should change the filters regularly (check them monthly). A dirty filter impedes air flow, reduces efficiency and could even cause a fire in an extreme case.
5. Have your heating ducts checked out.
Ducts aren’t always easy to see, but you can often find them exposed in the attic. Repair places where pipes are pinched, which impedes flow of heated air to the house, and fix gaps with a metal-backed tape.Ducts also should be vacuumed once every few years, to clean out the abundant dust, animal hair and other gunk that can gather in them and cause respiratory problems.
6. Face your windows
Now, of course, is the time to take down the window screens and put up storm windows, which provide an extra layer of protection and warmth. Buy a window insulator kit. Basically, the kit is plastic sheeting that’s affixed to a window’s interior with double-stick tape. A hair dryer is then used to shrink-wrap the sheeting onto the window. (It can be removed in the spring.) “It’s temporary and it’s not pretty, but it’s inexpensive (about $4 a window) and it’s extremely effective.
7. Don’t forget the chimney
A chimney should at least be inspected before use each year.
Ask for a Level 1 inspection, in which the professional examines the readily accessible portions.
Another tip: Buy a protective cap for your chimney, with a screen.
One other reminder: To keep out cold air, fireplace owners should keep their chimney’s damper closed when the fireplace isn’t in use.
8. Reverse that fan
“Reversing your ceiling fan is a small tip that people don’t often think of. By reversing its direction from the summer operation, the fan will push warm air downward and force it to recirculate, keeping you more comfortable. (Here’s how you know the fan is ready for winter: As you look up, the blades should be turning clockwise.
9. Wrap those pipes
A burst pipe caused by a winter freeze is a nightmare.
Next, go looking for other pipes that aren’t insulated, or that pass through unheated spaces — pipes that run through crawlspaces, basements or garages. Wrap them with pre-molded foam rubber sleeves or fiberglass insulation, available at hardware stores. If you’re really worried about a pipe freezing, you can first wrap it with heating tape, which is basically an electrical cord that emits heat.
10. Finally, check those alarms
This is a great time to check the operation — and change the batteries — on your home’s smoke detectors. Detectors should be replaced every 10 years, fire officials say. Test them — older ones in particular — with a small bit of actual smoke, and not just by pressing the “test” button. Check to see that your fire extinguisher is still where it should be, and still works.
Also, invest in a carbon-monoxide detector; every home should have at least one.