As with your health, prevention is better than a cure when it comes to the fall and winter health of your home and avoiding costly catastrophes. Nobody wants the expense, inconvenience or aggravation of a heating system that decides to stop working right when you need it most, on the coldest day of the year. Or, having to deal with a flooded basement because your gutters are clogged -- especially since these issues are preventable with some advanced preparation.
The checklist can feel like a chore after you've just enjoyed your summertime, but preparing your home now for fall and winter weather is time and money well spent. It will save you hassle and potentially large repair bills. Here's what you need to pay attention to and prep for your home to stay healthy through the fall and winter months ahead.
-- Check your heating system or HVAC: Check that curtains, furniture and carpet aren't blocking your home's heating and A/C vents. Clean filters; vacuum all vents and ducts of dust and fluff. Many prefer to have professionals do this and perform an annual system checkup, also. They will inspect your furnace, change filters, check for leaks and can also check air safety for carbon monoxide.
-- Set your thermostat: To save money on heating while you're not home or don't need the temperature set high, adjust your thermostat to automatically lower during the nighttime and the hours of the day you're away from home. Just a few degrees' difference can lower your utility bill.
-- Prep your water heater: Experts advise that you drain your water heater and remove any gunk and settled debris from the tank.
-- Clean humidifiers: It's also a good idea to replace filters so they're new and fresh for dry-heat season.
-- Reverse ceiling fans: Once you start using your heat, set the ceiling fan blades in a clockwise direction. "Energy Star says the fan will produce an updraft and push down into the room heated air from the ceiling," according to the Kiplinger website.
-- Check safety devices: Put new batteries in your carbon monoxide and smoke detectors. Test them to ensure they're in working order.
-- Inspect the roof and siding: Make sure leaves and debris are not gathering in roof gullies or between siding strips; repair any loose, missing or damaged siding, tiles or shingles.
-- Prevent ice dams: In harsh winter areas, icicles hanging from your roof can indicate issues with attic or roofing insulation. Also, if snow melts quickly off your roof, it can mean your home is losing heat. A contractor who specializes in weatherization can help identify air leaks that can cause ice dams to pool on the roof, which, when they melt, can cause significant damage.
-- Clean the gutters: If gutters are clogged, water can pour down the outside of your house and flood your basement or, at the very least, cause foundation damage. Many people prefer to have a professional gutter cleaning service remove leaves and debris, but with a ladder and leaf blower attachment, you can achieve the same result. Also check rainwater downspouts for obstructions, making sure they drain away from the house.
-- Winterize your A/C: If you have window air-conditioning units, remove, vacuum, cover and store them in a dry place. If they're not removable, secure a weatherproof cover on them to prevent drafts and air leaks. If you have central air, do the same to your outdoor unit.
-- Winterize your windows: This is an opportunity to remove and clean screens, store them for spring, and install storm windows. Remember to check seals, also.
-- Have your chimney swept: It's recommended that a professional chimney sweep service removes any debris from your chimney, checks that your damper closes properly to avoid drafts, and cleans all vents to prevent any presence of potentially deadly carbon monoxide. Find a local, certified sweep through the Chimney Safety Institute of America. If you have oil, gas, coal or other wood-burning appliances, inspect those closely to be sure they're clean and fully functioning. Similarly, if you have an emergency generator, now's the time to test it. And stock up on some extra gasoline for your snowblower, too, storing away from children and fire sources.
-- Check irrigation systems, sprinklers and faucets: Drain your irrigation system for the season and check for repairs. If you're in a snowy climate, mark your sprinkler heads. Turn off outdoor faucets, and remove and store hoses. Hoses and pipes full of frozen water can burst. If you have a pool in a cold climate, close that up for the winter, too.
-- Store summer furniture: If you clean, wash and store any cushions now, they'll be fresh for next season and last much longer.
-- Get your leaf blower and snowblowers ready: Check they're in good working order now, because who wants to stand in a blowing gale or a frigid winter storm and have them stop working?!
Pay attention upfront before weather hits. You -- and your home -- will be happy you did.