The rains have started again around here and there is enough of a chill in the air some days that I’ve switched our system from AC to heat. While the furnace isn’t kicking in every day, it is a reminder that fall has arrived and cooler weather is here to stay for the next few months.
And to be honest? I love fall. It means it is not sweltering hot outside and yet there are enough dry days still to get out of the house. And the colors! Love them.
But I also know that winter is coming (I’ll spare you the meme).
That means if we want to avoid water in the basement, cold air leaking in the house, overflowing gutters, and a mess of a yard in the spring, we need to do some basic maintenance around the house to prepare our house for the winter.
You can use this list to help get your home winterized and know that doing so will save you money in the long run.
1. Clean up the garden
As plants go dormant, you will want to clean up the garden. Not only will the garden look better, you’ll help your plants avoid some diseases they may get from having old, wet leaves hanging around.
Rake up dead/decaying plant matter, pull up weeds and cut back perennial flowers for the winter.
It is also a good time to plant spring bulbs or divide spring or summer blooming plants. If you add compost to your garden now, your plants will be ready to thrive in the spring.
2. Clean gutters and check downspouts
At least once during the fall, you should go around the house and check the gutters. Even with a one-story house, you’ll need a ladder.
So, grab a ladder, some gloves and maybe even a gutter scraper to help you scoop up debris. Go around and scoop out all the leaves, twigs and peanut shells out of the gutters.
Yes, I said peanut shells.
A neighbor up the street from us loves to feed the birds and squirrels every day which means the rest of us around the neighborhood end up with peanut shells in our gutters after the animals climb around.
Making sure the gutters are clear only takes a bit of effort and will help prevent ice dams or gutter overflow.
If you are lucky enough to have covered gutters, verify that everything is secured to the house and run some water from a hose down the gutters to ensure everything flows easily. Running the water also lets you check that downspouts are clear and properly angled away from the house. If you want to extend your downspouts further, you can purchase extenders that make it easy to redirect the water flow.
3. Check storm drains
Every year around here, streets flood because storm drain grates become clogged with leaves. Sound familiar?
Being a good neighbor includes also checking the storm drains near your house and keeping leaves off the street.
Go around and clear leaves off the street near your house and, when the rains start, check out nearby storm grates to make sure they stay clear. It will mean your neighborhood streets remain driveable and hopefully houses aren’t flooded.
4. Disconnect hoses and insulate faucets
When frost starts to make an appearance, it is time to disconnect your hoses and insulate your outdoor faucets. This is easy to do and can help prevent frozen pipes. Installing the insulated faucet covers is quick, easy and inexpensive.
5. Reverse ceiling fans
Ceiling fans are great for making rooms feel cooler in the summer. Did you know that by reversing the rotation direction, warm air by the ceiling is pushed back down into the room, helping cut heating costs? Change the rotation to take advantage of this and go ahead and use the fans in the winter as well.
6. Weatherize doors and windows
Have you ever noticed cold air coming in around your windows or doors? Early fall is the perfect time to go outside and check the seals and repair where needed. You may need to replace some caulk or add weather stripping, each of which you can buy at your local hardware store.
If you have removable storm windows, now is the time to take down the screens and install the storm windows. They really do help keep the house warmer, so use them if you have them.
If you don’t have storm windows, you can use a window insulation kit to keep drafts at bay. This is also a great option for renters as it is removable and inexpensive.
7. Inspect chimneys
If you didn’t have your chimney inspected in the spring, then set an appointment for an inspection and cleaning.
Ensuring your chimney is clean can help prevent a chimney fire and carbon monoxide poisoning. We’ve also had chimney sweeps let us know the condition of the liner and damper so we could make adjustments or repairs as needed.
8. Tune up the furnace and fireplace inserts
Beat the winter rush and have your furnace tuned-up in early fall. This should help ensure that your furnace stays running well through the cold season.
It is also a great time to ask about parts you can have on-hand that may fail, such as an ignitor on your gas furnace. Our repair guy showed us how to replace one after ours failed during a nasty cold spell. Now we keep one on hand for the next time it needs replacing (he told us they typically last about 2 years).
You will also want to make sure your heating vents are open and not blocked. No sense in turning on the heat if it doesn’t have anywhere to go!
9. Program your thermostat
Tired of heating an empty house or trying to remember to raise and lower the temperature on an old thermostat?
Programmable thermostats are an easy way to save money on your heating bill. If you don’t already have one, you can pick up a top-rated Nest learning thermostat or even a more economical 7-day programmable thermostat.
With a programmable thermostat, you can have the temperature set cooler for nighttime hours or when you are away for the day and have the temperature increase just before you wake or get home for the day.
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10. Prepare your car
If you live in an area that freezes or even visit one for ski weekends, then you will want to have your car ready for the season.
Take a bit of time to make sure you have extra anti-freeze and wiper fluid on hand. Also stock an emergency kit in your trunk with a small shovel, sand or cat litter, ice scraper and emergency blanket and flares. You may also want to have a set of tire chains in your trunk as well. In rainy areas, it is also a good time to replace the wipers.
Prepare your home for winter
Does this seem like a lot of work? Much of this prep can be done in a day and then schedule any professionals you may need to hire for help with tasks like furnace tune-ups or chimney inspections.
Before you know it, your home (and car) will be ready for wet and cold weather and you can cozy up with a good book knowing you’ve prepared for the season ahead.