As the leaves change and the days get shorter, take the time this autumn to prepare your home for winter. A few easy steps might help prevent some surprise repairs during an inconvenient time of year.
To prepare your home for the deep freeze, layers of ice and drifts of snow, use this checklist to make sure you’re ready.
Heating system maintenance
Your HVAC is central to keeping your home warm during the winter. Face the challenges of winter with these simple furnace tips.
- Change the air filter in your furnace and check its efficiency before the cold weather begins.
- Stock up on several air filters for the winter, and change them every month.
- Call in an HVAC contractor to test the heating output and give the system a tune up. This technician can also check for and correct possibly hazardous carbon monoxide levels generated by your heating system.
- If you don't have a programmable thermostat, purchase one for the system to help lower your energy costs. In extreme cold weather conditions, consider leaving your thermostat at a set level.
- After your furnace has been tuned up to its maximum efficiency, take a moment to inspect your heating ducts and vents. Dust them off and clear away anything that may have gotten into them over the summer.
- Other areas of your home:
- Check your windows for any leaks that may compromise your heating efficiency. If you feel cold air coming in, purchase a plastic sealing kit from the hardware store and place the plastic around the window to keep the heat from escaping.
- Be sure to check your doors as well, and replace the weather stripping if needed.
Check the fireplace, woodstove and/or chimney
Most chimney sweeps recommend an annual sweeping, but depending on how often you use the fireplace or woodstove, you might be able to wait on a full sweep. If you’ll be using the fireplace or woodstove often, call a chimney sweep for an inspection.
Hopefully you’ll have your older, seasoned firewood ready for use. Seasoned wood is best for fires, as it burns cleaner and longer. It's recommended to keep the firewood covered at least 30 feet from the house.
Review home fire safety
The beginning of the heating season brings new potential for fire hazards, so take a moment to review fire safety in your home. Check fire extinguishers and replace them if necessary, and change the batteries in your smoke detectors. Also review your home fire evacuation plan with your family.
Clean out gutters
It's best to inspect and clean your gutters a few times during the fall, especially if there are many trees around your house. If gutters remain clogged, water will spill over them and onto the ground next to the foundation, which can cause damage to the foundation or flood basements. Gutters and downspouts should be kept clean and should direct water away from the foundation, as well as from walkways and driveways, so they don’t become slippery or icy.
The orange, yellow and brown colors of the autumn leaves don't look as nice on the ground as they do on the trees. Rake or blow the leaves into piles and put them at the curb according to your town’s yard waste requirements. Most areas have ordinances about burning leaves, so check with your local area government first.
When sweeping the leaves off your patio, don't forget to clean, pack up and store any patio furniture for the winter. Disconnect garden hoses and, if practical, use an indoor valve to shut off and drain water from pipes leading to outside faucets. This reduces the chance of the pipes freezing in the section of pipe just inside the house.
Safely store gasoline
It’s recommended that you empty out unused fuel from any gas-powered equipment stored in the garage because sediment can build up and clog the fuel lines. Store gasoline in tanks out of children's reach and have it ready for use in your snow blower or emergency generator, if needed.
Test your emergency generator
It's a good idea to have an emergency generator if you live in an area that sees a lot of ice storms, as these are a major cause of blackouts during the winter. If you have a generator, give it a test run to see if it’s in good working order. Make sure you never run the generator in an enclosed space — like your garage — as it will present a carbon monoxide hazard.
Inspect your roof
Inspect your roof or hire a licensed professional to review the condition of your roof. Look for any wear and tear that might have happened during the previous season’s severe storms. If any shingles are curling, buckling or cracking, replace them. If there is extensive damage, you might consider re-roofing with impact resistant shingles. Don’t forget to check any flashing around skylights, pipes and chimneys to prevent snow and ice from creeping in.