Here's a quick 'get your home ready for winter' checklist to save you some time, money, and headache in the long run:
Clean and Repair Gutters
Your gutters drain and divert thousands of gallons of water from foundation walls and the exterior of your house. It is so important to keep them clean! Clogged gutters can lead to water in your basement and major damage. Have your gutters cleaned, then covered with guards to keep debris from building up again. and while you're up there...
Check for any possible roof problems
Inspect your roof from top to bottom. Use binoculars if necessary. Check all ridge shingles for cracks or wind damage. Look for curled, missing, or damaged shingles. Scan the entire roof for missing, curled, or damaged shingles. Roof-mounted television antennas often have guy wires holding them in place. Look for loose or missing guy wires. If you see some, and your antenna is not being used, think about having it completely removed. Look for any damage to the metal flashing in valleys and around chimneys and vents. If your gutters have large accumulations of granules, it's a sign that your roof is losing its coating and you can expect problems soon.
Check for gaps or cracks in doors, windows, and exterior walls
If you read our article on keeping bugs out, you've already covered this one and checked for missing or damaged caulk around windows, doors, and sealed any entry points like phone, electrical, cable, gas, and so on. So if you've already taken care of those things, we apologize. It's so important though! US Department of Energy says that on average, 10% of monthly energy bills are due to heating/cooling loss from these seemingly insignificant holes. Weather-stripping is easily the most cost-effective way cut these costs. It also reduces drafts and keeps your home more comfortable year-round. Weather stripping can deteriorate over time, so inspect it periodically. You have several options for checking. Close a door or window on a strip of paper; if the paper slides easily, your weatherstripping isn't doing its job. Another way is to close the door or window and hold a lighted candle near the frame, making sure to keep it away from any flammable materials. If the flame flickers at any spot along the frame, you have an air leak.
Freeze-proof your water lines
Close any shut-off valves for outside faucets, then open the outside faucet to drain the line. (There may be a small cap on the faucet you can loosen to facilitate this draining.) If you don't have shut-off valves, and your faucets aren't 'freeze-proof ', you can buy styrofoam faucet covers.
For an in-ground irrigation system, use the manufacturer's instructions for draining and protecting it from winter damage.
Check your heating system(s)
For Furnaces: To save money, disposable filters can be vacuumed once before replacement. Use a soft brush on a vacuum cleaner. If the filter is metal or electrostatic, remove and wash it with a water sprayer. Foam filters can also be vacuumed, but they only need to be replaced if they are damaged. Use a soft brush on a vacuum cleaner. If the filter is metal or electrostatic, remove and wash it with a firm water spray.
It's a good idea to have your heating system inspected by a professional once a year. More often if your furnace is making unusual sounds like screeches or whines, if it's not heating as effectively as it should, or it comes on at odd times. A furnace that doesn't work as well as it once did could be a sign of several problems. Your heating ducts could be blocked, the blower motor could be on its last legs, or the burners could be misaligned.
For Wood Burning Stoves and Fireplaces: Even if you use your fireplace only occasionally, you should check it annually for damage and hazards. Have your chimney cleaned and inspected to prevent dangerous creosote build up. This build up can cause smoke to accumulate in your home and can even cause house fires.
The best option may be to have your entire chimney system inspected by a chimney sweep, at least the first time. Once you know what to look for, you can do the inspection by shining a flashlight up the flue, looking for any deposits 1/8 inch thick or more. These deposits should be cleaned.
A chimney cap is important because birds love to build nests on chimneys. If you don't have a cap, look up the flu and make sure there are no obstructions.
Move the damper (the metal plate that opens and closes the flu just above the firebox). Moving it to the open and closed positions several times will help ensure that it is working properly.
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