Now that fall is officially here, it’s time to prepare your home for cold weather. These steps, most of which you can do yourself, will lower your utility bills and protect your home,too.
1. Tune up your heating system. You should inspect your furnace or heat pump to be sure the system is clean and in good repair, and that it can achieve its manufacturer-rated efficiency. The inspection also measures carbon-monoxide leakage..
2. Reverse your ceiling fans. If your ceiling fan has a reverse switch, use it to run the fan’s blades in a clockwise direction after you turn on your heat. Energy Star says the fan will produce an updraft and push down into the room heated air from the ceiling (remember, hot air rises). This is especially helpful in rooms with high ceilings -- and it might even allow you to turn down your thermostat by a degree or two for greater energy savings.
3. Prevent ice dams.If your home had lots of icicles last winter -- or worse, ice dams, which can cause meltwater to back up and flow into your house -- take steps to prevent potential damage this year.
4. Check the roof. Look for damaged, loose or missing shingles that may leak during winter’s storms or from melting snow.
5. Caulk around windows and doors. Richardson says that if the gaps between siding and window or door frames are bigger than the width of a nickel, you need to reapply exterior caulk.
6. Clean the gutters. If your gutters are full of debris, water can back up against the house and damage roofing, siding and wood trim -- plus cause leaks and ice dams. Also look for missing or damaged gutters and fascia boards and repair them.
7. Divert water. Add extensions to downspouts so that water runs at least 3 to 4 feet away from the foundation.
8. Turn off exterior faucets. Undrained water in pipes can freeze, which will cause pipes to burst as the ice expands. Start by disconnecting all garden hoses and draining the water that remains in faucets. I
9. Drain your lawn-irrigation system. Draining sprinkler-system pipes, as with spigots, will help avoid freezing and leaks.
10. Mulch leaves when you mow. Mow your leaves instead of raking them.
11. Prepare to stow your mower. As the mower sits through the winter, fuel remaining in its engine will decompose, "varnishing" the carburetor and causing difficulty when you try to start the engine in the spring.
12. Don't prune trees or shrubs until late-winter. You may be tempted to get out the pruning shears after the leaves fall, when you can first see the underlying structure of the plant. But horticulturalists advise waiting to prune until late winter for most plants, when they've been long dormant and just before spring growth begins.
13. Test your sump pump. Slowly pour several gallons of water into the sump pit to see whether the pump turns on. You should do this every few months, but especially after a long dry season or before a rainy one.
14. Call a chimney sweep. Before you burn the Yule log, make sure your fireplace (or any heating appliance burning gas, oil, wood or coal), chimney and vents are clean and in good repair. That will prevent chimney fires and prevent carbon monoxide from creeping into your home.
15. Avoid the rush. Don’t wait for the first winter storm to restock cold-weather essentials, such as salt or ice melt.