10 Tips for Fall Home Maintenance
By Mary Boone
Autumn is that fabulous time of the year when families take time out to visit apple orchards and pumpkin patches. The season offers respite from summer’s heat and gently nudges us toward the cooler, wetter and, for many, snowier days ahead.
You can take simple steps now to ensure your home and yard are ready for winter. Tackle a few chores each week, and you’ll be sitting pretty before the first snowflakes fall.
1. Gutter check. Clear leaves, pine needles and dirt from gutters and examine downspouts for damage. Water trapped in clogged gutters can cause serious damage to your roof or walls. Make sure downspouts direct water away from the foundation, sidewalks and driveways, so that they don’t become icy.
2. Dodge drafts. Check for air leaks, such as gaps along the baseboard, at the junctures of the walls and ceiling, or around windows and doors. Weather stripping or caulk can cure most draft woes. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, potential energy savings from reducing drafts in a home may range from 5 to 30 percent annually.
3. TLC for HVAC. Well in advance of cold weather, call in an HVAC contractor to test your furnace’s output and give your system a tune-up. This technician can also check to make sure your heating system is not generating hazardous levels of carbon monoxide. The technician should include filter cleaning in his tune-up, but be prepared to replace or clean your filter monthly once you turn on the heat.
4. Chimney checkup. Hire an experienced chimney sweep to inspect your chimney. An inspection generally costs between $50 and $100. The National Fire Protection Agency recommends having your chimney cleaned every time you burn through a cord of wood.
5. Air out. If you have a window air conditioning unit, take it out of the window or place a waterproof cover over it to prevent damage.
6. Change filters. Change or clean filters in stove vents, humidifiers, clothes dryers and room fans. Clean air filters will keep your family healthier in cooler months, when your house is closed up.
7. Store outdoor furniture. Unless you’re lucky enough to live in a place where year-round cookouts are the norm, it’s time to power wash outdoor furniture and cushions. Once they’re dry, store cushions so they’re ready to use next spring.
8. Be wise about water. Disconnect garden hoses. If you live in a cold weather climate and it’s at all possible, you’ll also want to use an indoor valve to shut off and drain water from pipes leading to outside faucets. This reduces the chance of freezing in the section of pipe just inside the house. If you have an irrigation system, consider having a professional provide necessary seasonal maintenance and repair broken sprinkler heads before cold weather hits.
9. De-Leaf. Beautiful autumn foliage is less attractive on the ground than it is in your trees. Most areas have rules about burning leaves or even what types of containers they should be collected in — make a call before you clean up the yard. Just remember that piles of leaves on your lawn will kill the grass below. Have fruit trees? Be diligent about cleaning up fallen plums, pears and apples or you could find yourself playing host to millions of fruit flies.
10. Be fan-tastic. Change the direction of your ceiling fan so that it spins clockwise and re-circulates warm air trapped near the ceiling. This simple step helps distribute warmer air to the places where it’s most needed and can lower energy usage up to 15 percent.
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