Preparing Your Home for Winter

If you’re a new homeowner, fall can be an exciting time of decorating and planning holiday get-togethers with family and friends. It’s also an important time to do a little preventive maintenance to make sure your house and lawn are ready for the cold months ahead.

Inside the house

1. Inspect all the window and exterior door frames to see if there are any gaps or cracks that let drafts in. Seal up any leaks with weather stripping or caulk to keep moisture and cold air out of your home. Be sure to look at the bottom of the doors to see if the door sweeps need to be replaced.

2. Especially if this is your first winter in your home, it’s important to have a licensed heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) technician inspect, clean and test your central heating system. Annual maintenance will make sure your furnace is operating safely and efficiently. This will save you money on repairs and lower your heating bills, and help the unit last longer.

3. Once it’s cool enough outside to turn the heat on, switch the direction of your ceiling fans to help the warm air circulate throughout your home, instead of accumulating up by the ceiling.

4. Change your furnace filters every month during the winter to keep dust and dirt out of both the heating system and the air you breathe.

5. Make sure you have a working smoke alarm on every floor of your home, and a carbon monoxide detector on any floor with a combustible-fuel appliance like a furnace, fireplace or gas stove. Test both detectors twice a year during the spring and fall time changes.

6. This is also a good time to make sure there’s at least one working fire extinguisher in your home. The extinguisher should be in the kitchen, and it should be less than six years old with an A-B-C rating, which means it will work for all types of fires.

7. If your home has a fireplace, have it inspected and cleaned before you use it. Make sure the damper opens and closes properly, and that the flue isn’t being blocked by debris or a bird’s nest. Gas fireplaces should be checked for leaks, and a chimney sweep should remove the soot and creosote build-up from inside the chimney.

Outside the house

1. Just as you did inside, walk around the exterior of your home and look for gaps or missing caulk on every door and window frame. Use weatherproof silicone caulk made for outdoor use to seal them up.

2. Clean the leaves and dirt out of your air conditioning unit so they don’t sit in there and decay all winter.

3. Carefully climb up and clean out the gutters and downspouts. Leaving pine needles, leaves and other debris in them could cause clogs and ice dams that can damage your roof and cause water to leak into your home. You can install gutter covers to keep them clean if you don’t want to repeat this process every few months.

4. Inspect the guttering and tighten loose brackets and joints, replace any sections that are damaged or rusted, and install splash blocks or extensions at the bottom of each downspout. This will ensure all the water from rain or melting snow makes its way down off your roof and away from your home’s foundation.

5. Since you’ll likely be going to work and coming home in the dark during the winter months, now is a good time to check all your exterior lights and replace any bulbs that are burned out. For added visibility, you could install landscaping lights along sidewalks or a motion-activated floodlight by the garage.

6. Patch any cracks in your home’s sidewalk or driveway to prevent freezing water from making them worse during the winter.

7. The time to think about snow removal is now, before you need it. Make sure you have ice melt or salt on hand, as well as a shovel and/or snow blower. Make sure they’re all easily accessible, and put ice scrapers in your cars, too.

Lawn, garden, porch, deck

1. Your grass will go dormant in the winter, but you can help get your lawn ready for spring by reseeding patchy spots, applying fertilizer, and planting flowering bulbs before the first freeze.

2. Clean and store outdoor furniture inside, and move summer plants and pots off the porch or deck.

3. When you’ve finished your yard work for the season, store equipment like leaf blowers, lawn mowers and trimmers in the garage or shed, and disconnect and drain the garden hoses. Leaving a hose connected to your outdoor faucet during the winter can allow the water inside to freeze, causing a burst pipe inside your house.

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