As the seasons change and we get ready to move inside once again, there are a number of things you want to take care of in order to improve comfort, ensure safety and keep those winter utility bills as low as possible.
Outside the house
___ Check the roof: Before the rain and snow hit, take a close look at your roofing, including flashings. Repair or replace anything that’s loose or missing, and caulk and seal flashings to prevent water from getting into the attic. If you have a significant number of shingles that are curled, cracked or otherwise showing that they’re at the end of their lifespan, it’s time to consider new roofing.
___ Seal exterior penetrations: Now is the ideal time to freshen up caulking around doors, windows, plumbing penetrations, and anywhere else that heat-robbing drafts can make their way in.
___ Close foundation vents: If you have opened your foundation vents for the summer to allow accumulated moisture to escape, close them up again as soon as the nighttime temperatures hover down around freezing. Also, install exterior faucet covers.
___ Check firewood supplies: To get the maximum heat value from your firewood, it needs to be dry. Stack your wood on an elevated platform — old pallets work well — and make sure that the wood is covered and protected from the elements.
___ Move freeze-prone liquids: If you have paint, car care products, lawn and garden products, or other liquids that are prone to freezing, move them into an area where they’ll be protected from winter’s chill. Use caution when moving potentially hazardous materials into the house – check and follow all the manufacturer’s storage instructions printed on the label.
Inside the house
___ Check for drafts: Even the tiniest of cracks around doors and windows can create drafts that cool your toes and rob your wallet. With your exterior doors closed, have another person stand outside and shine a bright light all around the door. If you see light from inside, it’s time to repair or replace your weatherstripping. Around windows, use a candle — preferably on a breezy day — to check for air leaks, then repair the weatherstripping as needed.
___ Check fireplace safety and efficiency: For conventional fireplaces, give some serious thought to installing airtight glass doors to improve efficiency and reduce drafts. If you already have doors, check and replace the door seals as needed, and adjust door latches and hinges. Now is also the time to have the chimney cleaned and checked for problems, and to check spark arrestor caps.
___ Check gas appliances: If you have a gas fireplace, range, water heater, or other appliance that uses propane or natural gas, have your utility company or heating contractor inspect flues, fittings and other components of your systems for potential problems.
___ Install a carbon monoxide detector: The possibility of carbon monoxide poisoning from a malfunctioning appliance increases substantially as we close our homes up for the winter. Take the time right now to pick up a carbon monoxide detector from your local home center and get it installed.
___ Check smoke detectors: As always, fall and spring are the times to replace your smoke detector batteries, as well checking that the detector is operating correctly. If you have an older house with a limited number of smoke detectors, you also need to install additional detectors outside each bedroom.
___ Check the heating system: A heating system tune-up is always in order this time of year. This should include changing the filter in your furnace; having your ducts cleaned; checking and possibly increasing insulation over ductwork running through the attic or crawlspace; clearing debris and overhanging shrubbery from around outdoor heat pump equipment; and having faulty or inefficient thermostats repaired or replaced.
___ Prepare humidifiers: Winter is a dry time inside your home, and many people chose to use a portable or central humidifier to put much-needed moisture back into the air. Now is the time to check your humidifier to make sure it’s operating properly, that all necessary plates and filters are in place, and that the system is clean and the water supply is correct. Check your operating and maintenance instructions for more information.